A little over a month ago, I posted a commentary suggesting this holiday shopping season was a do-or-die one for GoPro Inc (NASDAQ:GPRO) and, by extension, the last bastion of hope to get GPRO stock moving higher again. Between the launch of the fairly new Hero6 action camera and the very new Fusion 360-degree camera, the organization simply couldn’t afford another disappointing quarter.
The final tally for quarter four isn’t in yet (obviously), as the quarter is still underway. We’ve already seen some red flags flying, though, along with the introduction of rivals’ products that can only make a bad problem worse.
Not to wax hyperbolic, but this really may be the last Christmas season anyone needs to bother discussing this cool, but misguided, company.
On the good chance you didn’t catch it the first time around, my conclusion from Nov. 20 regarding GPRO stock:
“The reality is many people can appreciate that GoPro makes the best action cameras on the market. Unfortunately for owners of GPRO stock, many people don’t actually want to own one.”
This applies to the Fusion as well as the Hero6, but also to the older Hero5 too, which is still available.
My premise appears to be en route to becoming a reality. That is to say, GoPro has lowered the price of its core products heading into the home stretch of the holiday shopping season. The Hero6 retailed for $499 and is now available for $449. The Hero5 and Hero5 Session, which had been priced at $399 and $299 are now selling for $299 and $199, respectively.
There’s no apparent price break yet for the Fusion, which sells for $699, though it’s a bit early for discounts on the device. Regardless, working against the already-tepid interest in the Fusion is a bevy of other similar cameras with lower sticker prices. So far, while most reviews of the Fusion have indicated respect for the hardware, few have justified its higher price.
It’s not the kind of buzz and mania owners of GPRO stock were hoping to see.
This quarter is apt to be more than just a poor quarter for the company, though. As was cautioned in November, a poor Q4 may finally convince current and would-be owners of GPRO stock there’s just not a viable large market for premium action cameras.
This realization also gives rise to more philosophical questions.
As ridiculous as it may seem to glean wisdom from a purely pop-culture movie, Brad Pitt’s character John Smith from 2005’s Mr. And Mrs. Smith may have made an astute observation that applies to GoPro now. Thinking about his failed marriage, he explains to his estranged wife (Angelina Jolie): “I guess that’s what happens at the end, you start thinking about the beginning.”
With the end of GoPro as we know it likely in sight, everyone — including GoPro CEO Nick Woodman — is looking back at the beginning of GoPro, perhaps curious as to what went wrong.
Those thoughts, or at least some of them, came out in the 2017/2018 holiday edition of Inc. magazine. A handful of them may have proved eye-opening to faithful fans of the company, who always thought Woodman had his finger on the pulse of the action camera market.
The most telling of them all was this:
“One of the big lessons is that when things are going really well, you can be lured into thinking that everything’s easier than it is. Because you’re doing a really good job, you think you must be smart and good at this stuff. So, why can’t we go do this other thing? The reality is that you can’t expect your experience in your core business to translate. Just because you’re a World Series-winning pitcher doesn’t mean you can go play quarterback.”
It’s insight that came too late in the company’s timeline.
Still, Woodman is still swinging, even as Hero6 struggles and even as the Fusion takes aim at a market that was never that big to begin with. It’s not clear he’s taking his own advice.
It’s the fact that he’s still looking to turn the company around, however, that also raises hundreds of questions. The overarching one I brought up a month ago is still at the top of the list: If the Hero6 and the Hero5 and the Karma drone and the Fusion can’t get consumers overwhelmingly stoked, what can?
It’s not like we haven’t seen this kind of thing happen in the past… recently. Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) and Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) are all great examples of how leaders and investors can confuse “cool and clever” with “marketable and profitable.”
That’s not to say GoPro can’t be resuscitated. Of the three given parallel examples, Twitter is finally starting to prove it understands what consumers want. There’s much work to be done, but there’s a light at the end of Twitter’s tunnel.
That light doesn’t yet exist for GoPro.
It could, though. There’s little doubt GoPro is the top name in this sliver of the camera market. It’s just a matter of capitalizing it and explaining clearly why more people should want action cameras and, then, further explaining why GoPros are superior devices. Unfortunately, doing so won’t overcome GoPro’s bigger problem — the action camera market’s just not that big.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.