Shares of GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) have been on a tear since its June IPO. The stock, which recently crossed $80 for the first time (hitting a $10 billion valuation), has increased more than 70% in the past month alone. GoPro trades at a forward P/E of 77, not exactly what you would consider cheap. To justify this premium valuation, GoPro will have to sustain very strong growth in the coming years.
GoPro is evolving into more of a content and media business rather than just a camera business, but for now the company's revenue is derived solely from selling its versatile cameras (a category the company has pioneered and continues to dominate, capturing 45% of the sales in the U.S. camcorder market in 2013). Between 2009-2013, GoPro sold 8.5 million of its small HD cameras, with 3.8 million of those cameras being sold in 2013 alone.
The company is set to launch its new line of Hero 4 cameras in October, which should help boost sales and continue GoPro's streak of impressive revenue growth (which grew at an astounding compound annual growth rate of 148.2% between 2011 and 2013). However, there are growing concerns whether new rival versatile cameras from competitors such as Sony, Polaroid, Garmin, and HTC will capture a chunk of GoPro's market and diminish the company's long-term prospects.
I think many people are underestimating GoPro's brand power for a very simple reason: GoPro is more than a camera.
"Start with Why"
This quote comes from Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Sinek offers compelling arguments for what drives success for the greatest leaders and businesses of our age. In a TED Talk in 2009, Sinek explained:
"[V]ery, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by 'why' I don't mean 'to make a profit.' That's a result. It's always a result. By 'why,' I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning?"
While most businesses start with the "what" (such as a product or service), great businesses start with "why" they do what they do. Some relevant examples today are companies such as Apple ("Think Different."), Chipotle Mexican Grill ("Food With Integrity"), and, dare I say, GoPro ("Be a Hero"). These are examples of companies that have an overarching purpose and ethos which inform every corporate decision and product and service offered to customers.
In other words, says Sinek, "the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations -- regardless of their size, regardless of their industry -- all think, act and communicate from the inside out." This is GoPro.
GoPro's advantage over the competition
Hiebing, a marketing and advertising agency, cites research which finds "brands that evoke a stronger emotional response than comparable goods are able to sell in greater volumes, create rabid customer loyalty and charge 20 to 200 percent more than their competitors."
I believe this is a significant advantage for GoPro, which is competing against companies offering little in the way of inspiration or emotional engagement with consumers. Advertising the technical specs of a camera, in other words -- as these new entrants into the versatile market are doing -- is probably not going to engage many consumers (just as some superior specs for the Zune hardly dented the success of the iPod).
A clear purpose and vision
"We believe the best stories are being lived by our customers," said Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro. GoPro's purpose, in the words of Woodman (an avid surfer and GoPro user himself), is to help people "self-document themselves engaged in their interests or passions."
GoPro is the only company hyper-focused on this market. Garmin, HTC, Sony, and Polaroid have their hands in several sections of the electronics markets. Plus, GoPro is quickly becoming much more than a camera or hardware company. GoPro is equally focused on helping people manage, edit, and share their content through GoPro Studio and the GoPro App (both of which have been cumulatively downloaded more than ten million times), removing the friction of capturing, editing, and sharing content.
Finally, GoPro is beginning to roll out its media strategy with a new channel on Xbox Live (which was downloaded by more than 500,000 users within the span of several weeks after its July 22 launch) and a partnership with Virgin America, with more in the pipeline in the coming months and years. GoPro has millions of users capturing their passions and sharing them with the world, making for an engaged base of both camera and media users capable of propelling growth for many years to come. (GoPro is the No. 1 brand channel on YouTube, with skyrocketing user engagement numbers.)
Foolish bottom line
GoPro users have an emotional connection with the brand that is -- and, I believe, will continue to be -- the envy of competitors trying to grab share from GoPro. A growing base of passionate consumers coupled with an engaged audience of people watching GoPro's content will be very difficult for another business to replicate. It will likely take far more than cameras with comparable technical specs to bring meaningful competition to GoPro.
Woodman asks, "How do you get millions of people on your platform sharing compelling content and giving you credit for it?" His answer is simple: "You build GoPro."
David Kretzmann owns shares of GoPRO. You can follow David on Twitter @David_Kretzmann. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.