From his other-worldly aspirations to colonize Mars to plans for Jetson-like air travel to jumpstarting a revolution in the auto industry, it does not seem anything is impossible for Elon Musk. It’s safe to say the Tesla founder and head of SpaceX is the closest thing we’ll see to a real-life Tony Stark. While discovering ways to sustain life on the Red Planet or building state-of-the-art electric cars are remarkable accomplishments, his greatest feat may have happened earlier this week when he produced a car commercial that was literally out of this world.
This past Tuesday, SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket into space and attached to it was a 2008 Tesla Roadster (Matousek, 2018). Musk’s thought-process behind fixing an automobile to a rocket ship was to help people view exploration through a different prism and realize how technological advancements are taking space travel to the next level (Matousek, 2018). Rather than attaching a standard concrete block to his ship, Musk (2018) wanted to use “something that made us feel.” It turns out the brilliant inventor executed that to a tee as his decision to use the Roadster was widely applauded as a genius marketing move and an ad campaign other auto companies could only dream of launching (Matousek, 2018). Aside from the stunning visual of a car in space, the other spectacular aspect of the entire SpaceX/Tesla launch is that Tesla did not stray from its marketing strategy and spend anything for advertising (Matousek, 2018). Unlike most of its competitors which shell out millions of dollars for ads, Tesla’s sales rely solely on a model of word of mouth and media coverage (Schultz, 2017). While this complete disregard for ad sales bucks industry attitudes toward marketing, it has not hurt the company’s portfolio one bit—as of August 2017, more than 500,000 deposits have been placed on Tesla’s Model 3 automobile (Schultz, 2017).
I find the entire Tesla case study fascinating because the company flips the entire model of advertising/marketing success on its ear. Tesla shows us that not only is it possible to succeed without spending millions of dollars on ads, but you also do not need a comprehensive marketing strategy. Instead, Tesla’s success teaches us the power of a strong brand and thinking back to our readings, the company itself exudes so many of the stickiness principles (Heath & Heath, 2007). In terms of credibility, emotions, concreteness, and unexpectedness, Tesla’s products fulfill all of those criteria because many of us did not expect to see an automobile company make an impact with its state-of-the-art technology at such a rapid rate. Furthermore, while this may sound counterintuitive, Musk’s concept behind the automobiles is simple—build an amazing car that does not use gas.
Alluding back to what Brandon Rochon said in our recent live session, the geniuses always find a way to package a complex concept into simple terms and that’s exactly what Musk did in his SpaceX/Tesla launch—he didn’t have to explain all the bells and whistles, just show the car. Another important factor to consider in Tesla’s success is Musk’s ability to be authentic. Unlike many other billionaires and CEOs who either have no online presence or depend on a media relations team to protect their image, Musk is not afraid to be real and sometimes poke a little fun at himself (Matousek, 2018). As Coughter (2012) states that kind authenticity goes a long way in endearing followers to a brand because people feel like they can trust someone who is being genuine. Although most of us will probably never relate to Musk’s technological genius or bank account, he at least makes us feel like we do and many times that is just as important.
With all that said, what are some other popular brands you know of that do not spend any money on advertising?
Coughter, P. (2012). The art of the pitch: Persuasion and presentation skills that win business [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Matousek, M. (2018, February 7). Tesla created the world’s best car commercial without spending a dime on advertising. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-made-the-worlds-best-car-commercial-without-spending-money-2018-2
Musk, Elon [@ElonMusk]. (2017, December 22). A red car for the red planet. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BdA94kVgQhU/?hl=en&taken-by=elonmusk
Schultz, E.J. (2017, August 3). Tesla still doesn’t need paid advertising to make sales. Ad Age. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/tesla-paid-advertising/310008/