Power of Smart Marketing – An examination of early days of Tesla Motors

Firstly, in the interest of transparency,  I’d like to declare that I do not own stocks of Tesla Motors (http://www.teslamotors.com) or any of the firms run by Mr. Elon Musk. This is the first part of a series of posts on the marketing and strategic thought process behind the success of Tesla Motors.

Let us take a look at what most of us consider the typical characteristics of a marketing campaign. Typical marketing campaigns involve,

1) A premium Ad agency and associated costs.
2) Large marketing budgets , for instance big budget Hollywood movies spend almost 25-50% of their total budget towards marketing.
3) A carpet bombing approach involving the movie stars attending a slew of interviews, teaser ads in multiple media formats like Print ads, television campaigns, Online interest building via  twitter, Tumblr,  Facebook, A custom built website etc. to name a few.

Now let’s look at Tesla Motors, this is of course before Tesla became a stock market darling in the US and achieved its stellar share growth over the last year or so.

1) Tesla Motors does not have a Chief Marketing Officer
2) They do not have a contract with a large marketing or Ad agency
3) They have a pretty small marketing department.

So how exactly did Tesla Motors build up so much interest on their product?

The first Tesla Roadster (Their first high performance electric car) was produced and marketed from early 2006.  The approach followed was as follows,

1) A very internet centric marketing campaign from very early days. The founders Mr. Martin Eberhard, Mr. Elon Musk published very detailed and smart blogs from the early days (A classic one from Mr. Musk can be found at http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/secret-tesla-motors-master-plan-just-between-you-and-me )
2) Niche appearances at Conferences, effective use of the charisma and connections of Mr. Musk.
3) For example, Mr. Musk appeared on the then world famous late show with David Letterman after selling a car to Mr. Letterman.
4)  Smart product placement of the roadster by providing it free for the first Iron Man movie starring Robert Downey Jr and even for some BlackBerry ads (of course this was before the IPhone era!)
5)  Sale of the Roadster to Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger the then California Governor,  top movie stars and executives etc.

Mr. Elon Musk with the Tesla Roadster

Mr. Elon Musk with the Tesla Roadster

These marketing strategies ensured Tesla Motors got much higher media and online visibility than the few 100 Roadsters they sold through the first few years.

However it must be noted, marketing alone could not have Tesla Motors to their current position. They obviously had a pretty good product. My next post will examine the product specific reasons and strategy the firm adopted that helped the company along the way. Hope you enjoyed reading this post.


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