Brand Stories Part 1: GoPro

BY NANCY HALA

I was running a brand strategy workshop for GoPro’s leadership team, and I found myself at a total loss, both creatively and strategically. Which is not ideal when you’re the VP of strategy at a creative agency. GoPro makes video cameras that people affix to helmets, handlebars, and surfboards to record their extreme sports exploits from the camera’s vantage point. Part of the problem was I thought I could not relate to this brand. Extreme sports aren’t my thing and the jangly footage of that death-defying stuff makes me nervous.

We started talking about how GoPro wanted to expand beyond being a purveyor of cameras. The brand had a dream: To reinvent storytelling by inviting viewers into the three-foot sphere that the GoPro camera captures. It piqued my interest, but mid-workshop I was still doodling in my notebook, listening to everyone talk and waiting for someone to say something for me to write down—a thread for me to pick up, something that would spark the story.

Then the team’s lead creative director stood up and told us about his own personal GoPro moment. It was not about mountain biking or hang gliding. His story started with a letter he received from the father of an autistic, nonverbal child. Every day this father and son took a bike ride together around the neighborhood, the son on the back of the bike and the father in front. They couldn’t speak to one another so the father could only guess what his son was thinking during these rides, what he was looking at, how the experience felt. One day, the father put a GoPro camera on his son’s helmet and off they went.

This creative director opened his laptop to read the letter to the workshop room. The father had written to thank the brand because, finally, he said, he was able to see what his son saw— what mattered to him, what held his gaze. The next-door neighbor’s dog. The flowering tree at the end of the street. The clouds in the sky. A gravely part of the road. For the father to see the world from his son’s eyes meant they were able to communicate, without words.

The creative director choked up as he read the letter, and, by the end of it, tears were spilling down my cheeks, too. I thought, Wow, this brand is something else entirely. They’re not just selling cameras or sharing videos—they’re redefining communication and reinventing intimacy. They’re creating a shared experience in a three-foot sphere. That felt like a completely new story — a brand rebirth.

Every story told is a story of transformation. A character starts where he stands, and ends up somewhere very different — physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. A great brand story is a great human story. It’s rooted in point of view. It takes us on a journey of exploration and discovery; awareness and renewal. Great brand stories enrich our cultural dialogue because, like any story, they help us get to know each other. Let’s tell more of them.

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NANCY HALA

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