Tesla and the art of Marketing

For over 10 years, Tesla has been happy to grind away, working on sustainable transport initiatives that many believed weren’t possible.  They started in a garage like many other famous Silicon Valley startup ideas and worked away at a solution to a problem that wasn’t even recognized by the masses until just recently.  They wanted to build cars that were faster, safer, and more enjoyable than any other car on the planet – and ones powered by electricity at that.  This paints a picture of a flashy, sexy new company, but the most shocking part of their story however, has nothing to do with the building of the car.  it comes from the marketing branch of the company.  Tesla has never spent a single dollar advertising their product.  Such a statement would be considered crazy for any company, let alone a company creating a product that has never existed before.  It is easy to see this as a disadvantage for Tesla, perhaps as a low-hanging fruit for the company to pick for an easy revenue boost, but for Tesla, a lack of marketing has always been a blessing in disguise.

In 2008 Tesla was focused on launching a car it called the Roadster.  It was their first production car, a slick and nimble lotus-inspired car.  Tesla brought in millions of dollars from investors to create a prototype, and subsequently required millions more to get their first cars produced.  They took far more time and money than originally anticipated and barely survived a couple near-bankruptcy scares along the way.  The process was difficult, but in the end the launch was successful.  Tesla announced a second car in the production pipeline and became a topic of interest for the early adopter crowd in Silicon Valley.

But the baffling concept was that this company was completely unknown to the entire world outside of the Bay Area.  The reason Tesla had not yet spent money marketing their cars was because they came within hours of bankruptcy just trying to produce the car.  Tesla had no money to spend on marketing even if it wanted to.  The interesting point about this is that founder Elon Musk and his rag-tag group of employees had created a cult following by not marketing their product.  Tesla became the cool car company that nobody knew about, making it all the more intriguing when the early adopters shared Tesla’s story with their friends.  Whether it was a happy accident or not, we’ll never know, but today the Tesla story is one that has now spanned across the farthest reaches of the globe without a cost to the company.

In a remarkable few years, Tesla has been able to launch two more cars with another in the R&D pipeline.  At this point, it is widely known that the car speaks for itself.  Tesla relies on social media to spread the word of their products – still with no cost to the company.  Tesla has flipped the notion of paid marketing on its head, and fully ingrained that idea into the culture of the company today.  Rave reviews from customers drive media speculation as well as Tesla’s stock price.  The whole world is voluntarily spreading the latest news about Tesla. There is no car company in the world coming close to what Tesla is producing, and everyone is about to know it.  But I can promise you one thing, it won’t be coming from Tesla.

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