Automakers Take Note: Tesla Motors Success Comes Without Conventional Multi-Billion $ Advertising


Earlier Tweet On Tesla's "Revolutionary" Leasing Announcement In Which Mr. Musk Vows To Back Up Lease Guarantees Personally

Earlier Tweet On Tesla’s “Revolutionary” Leasing Announcement In Which Mr. Musk Vows To Back Up Lease Guarantees Personally

It’s no mystery that Tesla Motors’ way of “advertising” is unconventional.  The automaker airs nada on TV.  Print ads and Tesla are words that don’t belong in the same sentence and even the automaker’s online advertising is not what we’d consider conventional.  But automakers need to spend billions on advertising to be successful, right?  No, says Tesla.

Tesla Often Uses Its Facebook As a Major Form of Advertising

Tesla Often Uses Its Facebook As a Major Form of Advertising

Tesla Motors seems to have no problem grabbing the attention of the media and public.  No Super Bowl spot required.

Instead, Tesla relies almost exclusively on social media and on its number one fan, CEO Elon Musk.

Whether it’s a “revolutionary” lease deal, a never-ending battle with the New York Times, or to rally against Texas’ heinous auto dealers, the medium of choice for Tesla is almost always social media or an occasional “leaked” email.

Tesla Motors prefers to use Facebook as its outlet, but for Musk it’s Twitter.

Does this unconventional approach to advertising work?  Well, Adam Jonas, an analyst who covers Tesla for Morgan Stanley, says it sure does:

“Elon Musk is a marketing genius, in our view.  A tactful use of social media means a tiny car company has the best known financing program on the planet…. Mainstream OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are being taken to school here.”

Greg Sieck, a San Francisco-based brand strategist, agrees it’s successful, too:

“People want to be engaged with Tesla, and they want to read Elon’s tweets.  He’s the voice of the company.”

Tesla’s media strategy, we use the word “strategy” rather loosely here, is a combination of strategic, perfectly timed Tweets from Elon Musk, Facebook posts from Tesla Motors, occasional press releases and Musk appearing in public to field questions or for much-hyped unveilings.

In this way, Tesla gets the word out with minimal impact on the automaker’s bottom line.  But since it’s a method that works, Tesla says other automakers can continue to spend billions in advertising, while we comparatively spends a few dimes.

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10 Comments on "Automakers Take Note: Tesla Motors Success Comes Without Conventional Multi-Billion $ Advertising"

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This is great, but would it really scale? I mean, Tesla is a new company with a novel product. They don’t need to sell millions of cars to the average consumer right now.

By contrast, if GM decided to pull all commercials off the air / out of print, and relied instead on tweets from the CEO, they would lose market share and fast. Most people would likely think that they finally dissolved as a company.

Well, obviously you can’t simply switch over cold turkey. And you also need a highly visible and entertaining face for your product. Elon Musk (despite his idiosyncrasies) does that. A lot of that comes from his pure passion for his ideas and products.

The only highly visible person recently who perhaps could match it would have been Steve Jobs. But Steve was regarded as too much of a which may have limited his success. Elon Musk seems much more likable to me for some reason, which is important for a public figure.

Many manufacturers have dipped their toes into social media, but most of these people appear to be low-level marketing hires with little to no real authority or insight. If there are any higher level people participating most of the responses appear to be heavily filtered by lawyers. Having high-level executives/managers participate in social media in an ad-hoc manner really draws customers in and really makes customers and future customers feel like they are part of the product / brand which is important since word-of-mouth is probably one of the best selling tools.

Brian’s probably right though. You can only rely on social media advertising for so long to start up a new business with a niche product. And you’ll even get your name into the mainstream like Tesla has. But I can’t think of a single company that *sells* to the mainstream that has gotten away with little or no traditional advertising. Tesla is changing a lot of the rules for automotive technology, sales distribution, and energy distribution, but I don’t think they’ll be able to completely change the rules in advertising. Nor do they need to.

Interesting you mention Steve Jobs… how many Apple ad blitz’s have we all seen over the past 5 or more years despite his magnetism.

“This is great, but would it really scale?”

Exactly. Elon Musk is the new Steve Jobs. If Steve had tweeted and facebooked and those sorts of things, he would have had the same effect on Apple as Elon has on Tesla and SpaceX.

GM doesn’t have a Musk/Jobs type CEO. None of the auto manufacturers do. So this approach wont work because it takes many pieces to come together. Ron Johnson’s failure at JCP is proof of that.

I disagree with you slightly. When was the last time you saw an advertisement for a Corvette? And yet they’re not sitting on dealers lots gathering dust.

It works because it’s a novel technology selling to a niche market.

In the future, when (hopefully) Tesla aims for 200K cars per year, instead of 20K, surelly their marketing strategy will be different.

Chevy Volt has a FB page that is pretty active

Building American made spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station, with the end goal of colonizing Mars– does not hurt one’s “reputation” when you also have a vision for sustainable electric vehicle transportation for Earth. Toss in SolarCity, for low-carbon-energy-production, and this guy has all the eco-cred / humanitarian bases covered.

Musk lives and breaths his visionary dreams, and actually puts his money where his mouth is. This is something very few entrepreneurs actually do. Elon’s sincerity and genuineness in what he wants to accomplish, is infectious. How can other automakers on this planet (like GM, Audi, Volvo, Nissan, etc.) hope compete with that?

They can’t.

So let me guess, you’re also waiting for the press conference where Elon says “I am Ironman”.

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