Tesla Case Study

We looked into Tesla's $0 marketing strategy and condensed it into bite-size take-aways you can implement into your business.

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tesla.com / insiders perspective.

Unlike Tesla (the inventor), Tesla (the company) is getting all the recognition it deserves, and for good reason.

These days, the cars Tesla is making are so good that they’re winning numerous award spots that were previously held by regular gasoline cars. An example of this is back in 2019, Tesla’s Model X achieved a record high safety rating of 5 stars in independent testing done by the Euro NCAP.

Their cars are considered great by both experts and regular drivers alike. They also have a huge community of passionate fans who are continuously discussing on online forums how Tesla can make its cars better and, of course, market themselves better. An example of this is the r/teslamotors subreddit which currently has a whopping 1.3 million subscribers!

There is no denying that Tesla fans are one of the craziest advocates that a brand can have. They tend to attach deep sentimental significance to the cars they buy. For them, paying for a Tesla car isn’t just about getting a mode of transportation. They are also claiming a slice of the future.

Tesla has more orders than they can make” – More Great Marketing

By deliberately avoiding a shiny marketing campaign, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, constantly communicates that Tesla is super-focused on advancing the technology behind their cars. Almost every element of the Model S is presented to the masses as the very epitome of human innovation.

Despite the fact that most other car manufacturers have well-established marketing departments, Musk continues to convince everyone that he isn’t worried much about marketing. For him, giving Tesla an advertising budget would only lead to them spending every dollar of it on research and engineering. In other words, a better car that will be on everyone’s lips for years to come.

Tesla’s innovation is so impressive that Jimmy Wales, the famous internet entrepreneur, has said that for rich people who have made their money from technology, a Tesla is more impressive than Rolls-Royce or Bentley.

Tesla Doesn’t Buy Their Advertising; They Earn It

You can only get the attention that Tesla gets by making something that truly deserves to be on the news.

Speaking of newsworthy, have you noticed that Elon Musk does plenty of interviews? They are all over YouTube, amounting to tens of millions of views together. This seemingly unexplainable interest that people have in interviewing Musk is because he is always working on a “new, cooler” project. And this is peak Tesla marketing, gents. You come up with something innovative, and the media will come banging on your door.

The next section shows a few examples of Tesla’s “Free Marketing Strategy”

Elon and Showmanship

Elon Musk stated before that the public tends to be interested in superlatives and precedent things.

This quote captures the very core of Elon Musk’s marketing vision. The man understands the usefulness of showmanship, of doing tons of interviews, media appearances, and even movie cameos. Ironically enough, Musk, who’s sometimes dubbed as the “real-life Iron Man,” did cameo in the 2010 movie Iron Man 2, where he tells Tony Stark about his idea for an electric jet.

You can test Elon Musk’s showmanship for yourself by a simple Google search. Type in “Elon Musk says” (keep the quotes), and you’ll get a long list of things he’s said in the past that attracted a lot of attention, including but not limited to:

Elon Musk says he’ll send people to Mars by 2030.

  • Elon Musk says that we are probably living in a simulation.
  • Elon Musk says that the quickest way to make Mars livable is by nuking it.
  • Elon Musk says Tesla cars will drive themselves in a few years.
  • Elon Musk says Artificial Intelligence could soon take down the Internet.

Although two completely different individuals, Elon Musk is very similar to someone like Donald Trump, perhaps in the way that they both understand the power of making statements that are often deemed crazy by society.

Tesla as the Good Guys

Tesla, through a blog post titled “All Our Patents Are Belong to You,” depicted themselves as the good guy brand. This blog post, kudos for the video game meme from the ’80s, explains that Tesla is giving away its patents free of charge.

Additionally, back in 2016, Tesla bumped up a dying man’s production queue so he can have his Model S sooner than later, which made for a great story that attracted the attention of both the media and fans alike.

Humorous and Seemingly “Down-to-Earth” CEO

It all started with Musk doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread back in 2015. Some of his answers were perceived as funny by most of the community. Since then, he continued to have this humorous, Tony Stark-like persona, especially on his Twitter, where he shares the latest memes.

Parodied Products

Back in 2015, Tesla released a video of a prototype of their then-new charger, trying to find its way to the Model S in a very creepy sci-fi-like way.

The video has amassed over 8 million views as of the time of writing of this article and was parodied by numerous Reddit members at the time of release. For example, someone re-released the clip but with Marvin Gaye’s music added on top of it, which turned it into an instant parody.

Tesla Drivers Posting Their First Impressions

Numerous new Tesla owners have recorded themselves trying out the Autopilot function for the first time and posted their “reactions” on YouTube. These videos have thousands upon thousands of views combined and are yet another cog in this seemingly smooth machine that is Tesla’s free-of-charge marketing.

“So Safe, it broke the safety testing equipment.” 

A 2015 Reddit post with 10 thousand upvotes titled “TIL the Tesla Model S is so safe, it broke the safety testing equipment” is yet another great example of online fan communities contributing to the marketing of Tesla. The title sounds like something out of the Made To Stick marketing playbook.

Gigafactory – The Most Gigantic, Cleanest Factory Ever

Gigafactory, an unprecedented project started by Tesla in 2014, aims to build the largest factory in the world, just outside of Sparks, Nevada. The facility will be primarily powered by solar power and is expected to be the biggest building in the world once completed.

This project is a textbook example of the “precedents and superlatives” marketing trick.

Impressing Comic Artists

Numerous influential comic artists such as WaitButWhy and Oatmeal Comics have long been mesmerized by Tesla and its products, acting as free hubs of marketing as a result.

The Power of Names

Ever since Tesla took off, Elon Musk continues to refer to regular cars as “gasoline cars.” This is what is known as a retronym, much like “pocket watch,” “analog camera,” and more.

It is strategically used to make the new the norm as well as emphasizing the primitiveness of the current.

Ads Made by Supporters and Fans

Back in 2014, RJ Collins and James Khabushani, two college grads, founded Everdream Pictures and went out of their way to make a 1,500-dollar ad for Tesla Motors. The conceptualization and direction of the ad were done by their partners Andreas Attai and Joe Sill.

Elon Musk took noticed of the ad and tweeted it on his personal page, adding that he might be interested in working with them.

Tesla also launched ‘Project Loveday’, a contest for fan-made ads for Tesla cars which was, surprise surprise, originally the idea of a 5th-grader.

Provide Something Worthwhile

This is perhaps the toughest thing to tackle, and it’s also the backbone of your marketing. The best way to convince people that you offer value is by creating something, you’ve guessed it, valuable. If whatever product you come up with proves to be of value to a significant market, the communication/marketing side of things will be easy and straightforward.

For Elon Musk and Tesla, the “significant market” here is humanity as a whole. Electric cars are a valuable product because they are quite frankly the only (viable) future of sustainable transportation.

Make Your Story Relatable

People tend to compare Elon Musk with Steve Jobs a lot, and it’s not because they are both considered to be pioneers of technology. One thing that most people will remember about Steve Jobs is the fact that he was a great storyteller. He had a touch of the dramatic on most of what Apple was working on.

Although Musk isn’t as much of a smooth talker and Steve Jobs is and tends to be awkward sometimes, he still delivers a great story every time, one that feels true and relatable.

Drawbacks of Success

Anything and anyone successful these days has their share of hate. Some people might say that Tesla cars are nothing but glorified toys made for rich technocrats to brag about. Funnily enough, the same comments have been thrown at Apple products. Look where they are today.

And while these comments might have some truth to them, you still can’t deny that we as humans are social creatures and will always be. In other words, many of us are going to be continuously obsessed with status symbols. And it so happens that this flashy status symbol, unlike many others, is contributing to a brighter future where sustainable transportation is supreme.

Tesla's interior is super minimal and display is easy to use.

Notable Elements

Tesla's products stand out because they're beautiful and easy to use. Just like iOS, once you go Tesla, you can never go back.

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