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At CES, you can count on a few things: having television envy, wishing you’d worn more realistic shoes, and hearing companies of all sizes make New-Year’s-resolution-like declarations about their roles in the next technology revolution.
So when, at a panel on entrepreneurialism, CEO Nick Woodman likened the current state of GoPro—a camera brand with designs on becoming a full-blown content company—to “the iPod before iTunes,” one could have chalked it up to bullishness.
But what followed was a bit more compelling.
As he spoke, Woodman outlined how the rising importance of storytelling in people’s lives will drive the development of GoPro’s content sharing platform and ensure the future success of the company.
This wasn’t just about market opportunity. Woodman spoke very clearly about a bigger purpose for the company: creating a culture of empathy, at both a personal and global scale.
To accelerate the business and build a global community of brand advocates, GoPro has seized on a new type of tribalism that is connected to its core purpose.
The brand recognizes that humans throughout history have fulfilled a basic need for connection by telling stories, thereby forming personal communities. Today, storytelling has a much more powerful role in creating global communities. With new platforms in place, we are able to share on a much broader scale and find connections of identity that cross cultures.
Many lifestyle brands have tapped into niche communities when launching. From snowboard brand Burton to contemporary auto brand Scion, planting roots in particular subcultures has amplified brands’ sensibilities and made them desirable to an expanding base. GoPro found success on a similar path, first launching in surf shops, ski shops, and other outdoor adventure retailers. But the brand’s current vision for growth demonstrates how the new tribalism will fuel purpose-driven brands at a global scale.
Other brands at CES created compelling content experiences highlighting people and their passions. The Nikon School theater and Intel booth, for example, both showcased ambassador-driven content that demonstrated how the brands’ products and technologies facilitate personal pursuits and hobbies. While engaging, the approach felt more demo/product driven, without the same authentic attachment to a brand vision.
“The real losers…are the brands that don’t know who they are,” said Josh Feldmeth, Interbrand’s CEO of North America, during his panel discussion on branded content. If a brand doesn’t share the same passion as its audience, the risk of backlash for its disingenuous efforts is real. Much like people, brands that are driven by a strong sense of identity, and have communities that share in their journeys, are most ideally poised for growth.
Amidst the lofty claims on technology’s future made at CES, the brands with core propositions tied to real human desires—like a more connected, empathetic world—seemed to speak the loudest.