Tesla is worth more than many of its rivals combined, such as Fiat Chrysler ($20 billion), Ford ($24 billion), Ferrari ($32 billion), General Motors ($36 billion), BMW ($41 billion), Honda ($46 billion) and Volkswagen ($74 billion). 2020 Source
Why is Tesla the world’s most valuable car company?
How did they become so successful with very little focus on marketing?
I’m not going to say “no marketing,” because Elon is a genius marketer, but he doesn’t think about it like most people.
The marketing department for Tesla is tiny.
They spend $0 on advertising.
While other carmakers are willing to pay millions of dollars for a Super Bowl advertising slot, Tesla has not bought any TV or print ads. Source
Instead, Elon focused on what he loves, engineering.
He doesn’t care about marketing, he cares (a lot) about engineering a great product.
Then, he gets out there on Twitter and podcasts and talks about it.
He genuinely cares about the stuff he talks about and has a good time.
You can feel it.
He doesn’t really give a f*ck.
For example, he smoked weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast which has an estimated 11 million listeners per episode.
He tweets SpaceX updates, silly memes, and things like “Mad respect for the makers” and “Tropic Thunder is so good” to 59.2 million followers.
Compare this to some CEO going out there with a marketing agenda.
You can just feel it. It’s not the same.
Mr. Musk believes leaders should funnel their cash into continuous product improvement. Source
Data confirms that advertising, in and of itself, is not a cause of audience actions but rather advertising works with and through various other mediating factors such as customer predispositions and personal influences. Brand awareness is not a useful predictor of action. Just being aware of something is nice, but you can be aware of a Lamborghini and never buy one. Basically, advertising works best with those people who already know and/or use the brand. In other words, once a brand is owned or used, advertising can work on improving the owner’s/user’s attitude toward it.
Having said this, Mr. Musk does advertise. He just does not use traditional methods. He is extremely adept at using PR and digital social media to help form opinions and attitudes about the Tesla brand. He also generates Tesla interest through his other endeavors. He is a natural at employing the Brand Journalism approach to marketing communications. Source
The Ingredients Musk used to get there
I believe there were a lot of things that are far beyond my knowledge that led to Tesla being the World’s Most Valuable Car Company, but here are what I feel were some of the main ingredients
[Ingredient 1] An amazing product
Elon created an amazing new product that was different than the rest. It looked, acted, and felt different than all the other cars out there. It aligned with its customer’s values when it comes to the planet. It was an innovative technology, and it’s cool. It was also surprisingly accessible.
[Ingredient 2] Elon Musk
A human personality. A face for the company.
Customers need something to connect with. Even if just one-way. Elon is a character. He’s totally himself and doesn’t give a fu*k what anyone thinks. He’s like a big kid who just wants to build things and solve problems. People love that!
He doesn’t fall too far on the ends of the Fu*ks factor spectrum.
He’s not boring.
And he doesn’t give too few f*cks, otherwise, he’d be reckless and lazy.
He’s not too politically correct.
He’s not too careful.
He takes risk and does what he wants.
This is attractive because you know he’s being honest.
You can trust him.
It’s also just interesting and entertaining.
[Ingredient 3] Non-traditional marketing
For a company this size, Elon goes completely against the grain. Many CMO’s disagree with his marketing decisions and would never recommend such acts.
But the proof is in the pudding…
It works. Period.
I doubt Elon sits down weekly and thoroughly thinks out elaborate marketing strategies.
Instead, he likely has a rough plan, then just does stuff he enjoys.
His main forms of marketing are PR and social media. Podcasts, Twitter, and controlling the narrative in many news outlets.
What WE can learn from Elon
- Put marketing aside for a second and make sure you first have an amazing product.
- Your best marketers are your happy customers and clients. Start there.
- Double down on what you really care about and what you’re passionate about and give less of a sh*t about what others think.
- Speak up and show up – be the face of your brand and be yourself.
- Focus on fewer channel and go deeper into those channels.
- Let your personality shine through and take risks.
- Be patient.
You don’t need to do what everyone else is doing (traditional marketing). You don’t need to be everywhere all the time. You don’t need to spend the most on advertising. You don’t need to out-noise your competition.
Tesla is living proof.