Among the number of companies Elon Musk runs, Tesla is the one you probably hear about almost every day. But you might not have known that the world’s most valuable car company has a $0 marketing budget.
As the CEO and product architect of Tesla, Musk is known to make headlines around the world. He knows how to wield the media to shine the spotlight directly on himself and his company. And he does this without paying a single cent. All the funds are allocated to product development, to ensure that the world receives products of exceptional quality.
With other automotive giants spending so much on advertising, it is very intriguing that Tesla has chosen to go the other way. First and foremost, they’ve created a product that matters to people. The cars are so advanced and environmentally friendly, car experts and regular drivers absolutely love them.
Building an amazing product is the first and most difficult step. But if you’re lucky enough to figure this out, the next part is to communicate the product’s value to the market. In this time and age, you need to be able to tell stories that resonate with people.
This is exactly what Musk has mastered. Over the years, he’s developed cool products and has been associated with some very interesting projects. Although he has a slightly awkward presence about him, he does as many interviews as he can to get his brands and products out there. He’s aware of newsworthy factors and potentially viral stories. Clearly, this man knows how to put on a show.
Tesla Motors has no advertising, no ad agency, no CMO, no dealer network. And that’s no problem. – AdvertisingAge
Besides interviews, there are also other acts that have helped to boost Tesla’s image. Here are some examples of how Musk has received so much attention without taking out his wallet:
Saying something absurd is something that Musk does quite often. People might think he’s crazy, but he does know how to make magnetic headlines. Here are some of the things he’s said:
Nuking Mars is the quickest way to make it livable
Vehicles will drive themselves in two years
Apple only hires Tesla’s worst engineers
The South African tech mogul has had a number of appearances in Hollywood movies. Let’s take a look at his top five cameos:
Iron Man 2
The Big Bang Theory
Rick and Morty
Giving away patents for free
In June 2014, the tech founder announced that he would be supporting the open-source movement. During the early days of his career, he believed in creating and obtaining patents. However, he soon realized that patents merely obstruct advancements. If the goal is to create and accelerate technology to make a difference in the world, then getting patented is no help at all.
In Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters, you will find that this wall of patents has been removed.
Fulfilling a dying man’s wish
Musk was involved with another act of generosity in 2016. There was a long line of people waiting to receive their Tesla Model S. In December 2013 at the age of 29, Ryan Wagner was diagnosed with colon cancer. With the disease spreading to his lymph nodes and lungs, doctors stated that he only had a few years left to live.
Knowing that he didn’t have much time left, Wagner started crossing off items on his bucket list. Among his many wishes was owning a Tesla. He ordered the Model S and when the dealership got to know about his story, they bumped him up the production queue. Wagner sadly passed away in January 2018.
As one of its marketing strategies, Tesla has its very own YouTube channel. As of August 2020, the channel has 1.39 million subscribers. It uses the video distribution platform to showcase its latest models and technology so viewers can enjoy the Tesla experience.
Here is one of its latest videos giving viewers a peek into the latest developments to help with the COVID crisis.
Emphasis on safety
One of Tesla’s biggest principles is its focus on safety and using technology to improve safety. Tesla mobiles are considered to be the safest cars in the world. On the Tesla website, you will find this statement regarding its safety standards:
We believe the unique combination of passive safety, active safety, and automated driver assistance is crucial for keeping not just Tesla drivers and passengers safe, but all drivers on the road. It’s this notion that grounds every decision we make – from the design of our cars, to the software we introduce, to the features we offer every Tesla owner.
It’s mandatory for all cars to get tested by the U.S. government’s New Car Assessment Program. Model S, Model X, and Model 3 have achieved extremely high safety ratings. Tesla’s models have a very low center of gravity, which attributes to the rigid and powerful structure. Due to this, if ever a Tesla car is involved in an accident, the battery has very low chances of getting damaged. And if in the slightest chance there’s a fire, the advanced technology has a safety system in place. It isolates the fire to other parts of the battery that are less dangerous while pushing heat away from the vehicle at the same time.
It would be a dream to have a car that can prevent all types of accidents. Although it is pure imagination, Tesla does come very close to it.
Working on massive and impactful developments
Tesla and Musk are on a mission to creating a better world. Their main focus is on the world’s transition into sustainable energy. With the majority of cars running on gasoline, Musk would like to see more electric vehicles and energy products on the road. To achieve this, he’s striving to manufacture affordable electric cars.
To be able to produce and deliver 500,000 cars per year, every single lithium-ion battery that exists on this planet is necessary. With that in mind, the Gigafactory was built in order to supply enough batteries to support Tesla’s car production. This massive structure of a factory produces the Model 3 electric motors and battery packs as well as other energy storage products.
Located outside Sparks, Nevada, the Gigafactory covers an area of approximately 1.9 million square feet. With its several floors, there’s an operational space of close to 5.3 million square feet. Opening its doors in June 2014, the name truly represents the size and mission it is trying to accomplish.
Although the entire project is still years from completion, Tesla has already begun manufacturing inside. Once complete, the Gigafactory will be the biggest building in the world and powered only by renewable energy sources. With the aim to be a net-zero energy factory, the factory will solar-powered.
Free ads & publicity from Project Loveday
According to Tesla’s policy, the company does not do traditional advertising. It does things a little differently and chooses to earn respect through PR acts. Loved by so many, the innovative car manufacturer has even received free ads made by superfans.
And then one day, a 10-year old girl by the name of Bria Loveday sent a letter to Tesla suggesting that they hold a video contest. The automotive giant thought it was such an awesome idea and Project Loveday was launched in 2017.
For a few months, Tesla collected videos from all around the globe. All submissions had to be related to Tesla and kept to 90 seconds or less. Videos were judged based on these four criteria: originality, creativity, relevance to Tesla, and entertainment value.
The winner didn’t get a Tesla. The Grand Prize was an invitation and public introduction at a future Tesla product launch. Here was the winning video by famous YouTuber Marques Brownlee:
Extremely active on Twitter
It’s no secret that the billionaire CEO loves his tweets. His presence on the social media account dates back to 2011. With 37.6 million followers, he’s able to tweet to a huge audience and have his voice heard.
With every year that passes by, his twitter feed seems to be expanding. If you check out his profile, he doesn’t have a tweeting routine. He’ll randomly tweet at any time of the day and late into the night.
The effectiveness of marketing through Twitter has shown that it’s about time other CEOs jump on board. For the automotive industry, stats indicate that over 95% of people explore digital channels when they research on cars. Specifically, social media is used to check out reviews, listen to what others have to say and to follow influencers. It’s a virtual gallery for brands and products to showcase their expertise.
Among all the major tech CEOS, Musk ranks second as the profile with the most tweets. Only Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweets more than him. Not only are most of his activity tweets, but he also replies to anyone – literally anyone.
This is the marketing genius interacting with ordinary citizens. The blocks in yellow are his replies. More than half of his activity on Twitter is a reply. He’ll answer anyone regardless of the number of followers you have. His popularity on Twitter is also attributed to the fact that he uses a very casual tone. Unlike other very serious CEOs.
Here is a list of things he uses his social media account for:
- To make jokes
- To share about his personal life
- To give insight into his various businesses
- To ask the market what they want
- For customer service
- To spar with critics
It’s a combination of his humor, casual tone, and genuine self that makes him very likable on social media. At times, he might tweet about the wrong thing, but he has shown how powerful a marketing tool Twitter can be. If you run a business, you should be jumping on the wagon.
He doesn’t believe in market research
Apart from his zero paid advertising policy, the South African billionaire also knows how to allocate budgets wisely. Ignoring this aspect of the company, he has claimed that he does “zero market research whatsoever”.
“A lot of times people try to make products they think others would love but they don’t love themselves.” – Musk at a conference
The Tesla CEO has absolute faith in his product. He believes that if you love your product, others will too. And they will be interested in buying it. In other words, you need to focus on developing an amazing product and it will market itself.
On the contrary, many other large corporations still place their bets on market research. It’s not the wrong path either as it has also proven to be successful over the past decades. If you’re thinking about whether you should be conducting this type of research, here are some situations for when market research might not be necessary:
1. When your product is beyond the market’s imagination
You might be developing a product that the world has never seen before. Though you’re convinced that it will improve their lives, they might not be ready to accept it. A good example is when Ford started producing cars. It is rumored that Henry Ford once said “If I asked the people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses”.
This was during a time when people used horses to get around. Asking them for their opinion on such a new concept would have been unfathomable.
2. When time is ticking
When time is of the essence, you can’t waste time on consumer research. This type of study could take years. There are just too many phases and tests to run. While you’re spending time conducting research, a competitor could overtake you as well.
3. When you trust the experts in your team
You’ve been working with your team of experts that they have become your trusted advisors. If you have faith in them, their opinion is often better than the market’s thoughts. Let your team go wild with their innovation and develop new ideas.
4. When failing doesn’t mean bankruptcy
It saves a lot of time, effort, and money to just develop a product and put it out there. Go with the flow and see what happens. If the market responds positively, then it’s a successful product that can go into the next phase of mass production. On the other hand, if it is met with negative responses, it would be considered a failure. But a cheap failure that you can afford and learn from. Then, move on to the next idea.
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