Advertising For Infinity and Beyond: Musk Also Takes Over Marketing World

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?

References

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/

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6 Responses to Advertising For Infinity and Beyond: Musk Also Takes Over Marketing World

  1. Raquel Small says:

    Mark, this was an excellent topic to use for the blog! I’ve often said that society needs to be nice to Elon Musk because he has all the makings of an evil villain but chooses to use his powers for good. Jokes aside, the entire world was talking about Tesla and SpaceX this week and it had nothing to do with any scandals or mis-steps by either company. That is no easy feat! As you correctly pointed out, they did not have to spend any extra money on marketing and yet I’ve seen these images floating around all of my social media since the launch. Like Brandon, Heath & Heath mentioned that simplicity is the key and this is no different. Obviously launching a car into space is by no means “simple” but seeing the image of the spaceman “driving” away from space consolidated so many feelings, hopes and dreams of humanity folded into just one picture was really inspiring. Now I want a Tesla!

    Great job!
    Raquel

    • Mark Carpenter says:

      Thank you very much for reading Raquel! Yes, we all definitely need to be nice to Elon Musk because he has the power to jettison us to Mars. In addition to the amazing feat itself, what really impressed me is how Musk uses social media as a way to complement his grand ideas. He seems to be keenly aware that people are tuned in to his ideas, and as a result, makes it a point to constantly connect with consumers.

  2. Donna Faye says:

    Hi Mark,

    This article offers a great example of the application of Heath and Heath’s principles that make ideas stick. The launch is such a compelling story that people are naturally drawn to it without spending advertising dollars. Musk himself is an interesting personality who is not afraid to connect instead of hiding behind a CEO’s desk.

    Another company who does not rely on traditional marketing is Toms. Toms started out selling shoes and employing the “One for One” business model where for every pair of shoes the company sells, they donate a pair to a child in need. Later, Toms expanded its product line with each product tied into giving a related product. These include sunglasses (gift of sight), coffee (gift of safe water), bags (gift of safe birth) and backpack (gift of kindness – preventing bullying). Like Tesla, Toms’ One for One business model is an excellent marketing strategy that exhibits the SUCCESs principles that the Heath brothers talk about.

    Toms’ founder, Blake Mycoskie, is also not afraid to connect. In fact, he’s not even afraid to be vulnerable. This article on Inc. (https://www.inc.com/magazine/201605/leigh-buchanan/toms-founder-blake-mycoskie-social-entrepreneurship.html) is just one of several where Mycoskie bares his soul. Intended or not, Mycoskie’s authenticity makes great publicity for the company, which is probably why even though he is no longer Toms’ CEO, he remains to be the company’s public face.

    Donna

    • Mark Carpenter says:

      Thanks so much for reading Donna! One of the great byproducts of the rise of social media is that it has forced people in power to decide what kind of online citizen will they be– detached or engaging. While some can go overboard in their social media use, I admire the ones, like Musk and Mycoskie, who are able to strike that balance in both providing useful information and connecting emotionally with consumers.

  3. Bobby Borg says:

    Hi Mark,

    Great timely choice of topic material for this Blog. Also, great job at referencing the Made to Stick principles into your article as well. Bravo Mark!

    I enjoyed reading your piece. Some of the highlights were this line:

    “… a genius marketing move and an ad campaign other auto companies could only dream of launching (Matousek, 2018).”

    Also, this really jumped out at me:

    “…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).”

    And finally, your quoting Brandon: “the geniuses always find a way to package a complex concept into simple terms.”

    Very interesting stuff Mark. However, seeing that you are a fan of Tesla and Elon, I am curious about how you feel about regular reports abut how Tesla is not a profitable company. Articles like this: “Analyst jokes Musk will make it to Mars with SpaceX before Tesla is profitable (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/28/analyst-jokes-musk-will-make-it-to-mars-before-tesla-is-profitable.html), and this one, “Tesla won’t turn a profit till 2020 (http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/tesla-stock-price-jefferies-rates-underperform-2017-9-1002383496).

    Just curious what you thought.

    In any case, my fellow Trojan, peace and great article once again.

    Cheers,

    Bobby Borg

    • Mark Carpenter says:

      Thank you for reading Bobby! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the articles you attached on Tesla’s challenges in generating profit. Although Musk’s companies have had shortfalls in the revenue department, I’m just a big fan of what he is doing with technology. The most valuable lessons I’ve taken from this program center on the importance of thinking differently, finding alternatives to established constructs, and like Brandon says, be a disruptor. While business analysts can question profitability, I admire that Musk rattles the cages on what is possible and seeks innovative ways to shape society.

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