GoPro crashes out of the drone market - it needs to rethink its sales pitch

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

GoPro – makers of every extreme sports dude’s favourite camera – are pulling out of the drone market:

In its earnings report today, the company said that although the Karma “reached the #2 market position in its price band in 2017, the product faces margin challenges in an extremely competitive aerial market.” (Translation: it’s tough to make money selling drones, especially when you’re selling hardly any.) The company also blamed the decision on new regulations being mooted in Europe and the US that it claimed would “reduce the total addressable market in the years ahead.”

“These factors make the aerial market untenable and GoPro will exit the market after selling its remaining Karma inventory,” said the firm in a statement. “GoPro will continue to provide service and support to Karma customers.”

This isn’t great news – the market for competitors to DJI in the drone industry is pretty small right now. I’ve tried to avoid buying a DJI drone so far – I was waiting for the Karma 2, in the hope that it would be a big improvement on the somewhat sub-par Karma. Why? DJI’s record on privacy and bugs is not great.

And so, we’re left with a drone market completely dominated by one company – which isn’t good for anyone, with even the #2 player in its price bracket unable to make it pay. And GoPro’s future looks uncertain, mere months after it seemed on the rebound.

Getting a Karma grip

I picked up the Karma Grip — no word yet if that’ll continue, but I hope it does — which was part of the Karma stabilisation system. It came with the drone, but could be bought separately. Shortly afterwards, we took a family weekend away, with a trip to a zoo, and I made my long-suffering family my first test subjects:

It had never occurred to me to use a GoPro and gimbal for a family adventure, but it works brilliantly. The gear is robust and stable, and you get the sort of footage you’d never be able to get without putting your phone at serious risk.

In short, this “action cam” is useful for a lot more than just extreme sports.

GoPro’s extreme addiction is hurting it

GoPro still makes great cameras, but I wonder if their marketing is just too narrow. For example, look at this “best of 2017” video:

It’s relentlessly young people doing “extreme” things, apart from a brief moment, [about halfway through](, where you get a moment of family holiday.

Yes, I get that the category is called “action cams”, but they’re basically just little, robust, high-quality video cameras, that you can happily use places you just wouldn’t want to take your phone – like playing in the sea or the swimming pool. I’ve got some wonderful video and images from our joint family holiday with my brother’s family, simply because I could throw the GoPro in my pocket, and use it wherever, including the sea and the pool.

Underwater Adam

GoPro make great, robust, flexible and waterproof video cameras, that you can use in all sorts of places that you wouldn’t want to put your phone or other camera. A whole bunch of their potential customers will never, ever touch their gear, simply because they can’t stop obsessing over the extreme sports image.

I felt a fraud buying my GoPro, because as a 40-something dad, I don’t spend much time flinging myself off mountains. But both personally and professionally find lots of opportunity to stick a GoPro somewhere and grab some unusual footage. The fact that your marketing makes me feel that this kit isn’t for me is a pretty major problem.

Stop trying so hard to be cool. Start admitting that there’s more to you kit than the 20-something sports crowd. Show us some families. Show us some journalists. There’s lots more uses for you cameras that being strapped to a surfboard.

And maybe then, you can stop laying people off.

drone journalismdronesgimbalsgoprokarma dronekarma gripstabilisationVideo

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.