Two cents blog

Tesla’s New (Advertising) Model?

by Sam Kane on 21 April 2016

When a company wants to sell more products, what do they do? They advertise, right? At least that’s the general wisdom, and for those of us who work in advertising, we hope that general wisdom still rings true. For the most part, it does, but the way in which this is done is changing dramatically. The days of the interruption model are numbered. Agencies and clients alike are now embracing an ‘always on’ approach where engagement and dialogue are key. To see this strategy in action you only need to look to some of the world’s biggest brands. Heavyweights like Zara, Costco and Uniqlo are beginning to place more value in non-traditional forms of advertising, such as an active social media presence and acquiring a strong group of influencers who will promote the brand without being asked (or even paid) to do so. This concept was perfectly played out earlier this month when electric car company giant and pioneering force, Tesla, launched the newest addition to their fleet, the Model 3.


In case you haven’t heard of Tesla or their admired leader Elon Musk, the company enjoys a cult-like following amongst tech enthusiasts and the rich and famous. Prior to the Model 3, a Tesla would set you back more than $100,000. Now, with the launch of the Model 3, you can own a Tesla for US$35,000, making electric cars more accessible to society’s middle class. Understandably, this made a lot of people very excited, and what resulted exceeded everyone’s expectations, even Elon Musk himself. Within two days of the Model 3 being available for pre-order, Tesla had sold 276,000 of them.


While the numbers are impressive, it is the culture surrounding the brand that’s amazed observers. Despite the Model 3 being made available for pre-order online, Tesla stores saw lengthy queues forming the night before the launch; in scenes reminiscent of Apple’s many iPhone launches. Purchasing a Tesla is as much about the experience as it is about owning the product.


Tesla has achieved what all brands strive to achieve: passionate consumers who will champion the brand at any given opportunity. What is perhaps most impressive in this case is that Tesla have done this without spending a single dollar on advertising. Instead, they have relied heavily on brand ambassadors and their brand culture to drive the company forward.


Late night TV host Steven Colbert is one such champion of the Tesla brand. In an opening monologue of one of his episodes, Colbert spent six minutes talking about his Tesla, during which he proclaimed “I love my Tesla” and proceeded to talk about its “cool” features including the self-driving upgrade that was rolled out late last year. This was a rare ‘money can’t buy’ opportunity, and would not have gone unnoticed by Tesla’s marketing team or even Elon Musk himself.

While this strategy has worked for Tesla in the past, the introduction of the Model 3 means they are now competing against more established, affordable brands such as Audi, Mazda and Hyundai; all of which use traditional advertising to varying degrees, in order to drive sales and to keep their brand top of mind. Communicating with a different audience requires a tailored strategic approach, so it will be interesting to see how Tesla competes within this environment moving forward. For now, Tesla have an active, engaged, passionate community of brand ambassadors who feel as though they are part of something. If the move away from traditional advertising and towards an open, collaborative model has achieved this level of success, it’s no wonder many other big brands want in.


Sam Kane is a Media Coordinator at BCM 


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