3 Lessons to Learn from Tesla’s Marketing Strategy


To many, cars are an extension of their characters. Are you a Ferrari or a Lamborghini person? Do you prefer a supercharger or a turbocharger? Will your car be able to take the battering of that arduous road trip?

Automotive marketing teams have long understood this bond between people and their cars, and are quick to take advantage of it.

But today, the industry is undergoing a major reform. Established players like Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, and what have you, are being challenged by electric and autonomous vehicles from novel brands like Tesla and Waymo (originally Google’s self-driving car project).

Especially Tesla – how is this underdog with an apparently “$0 marketing budget” able to sell cars for over $100,000? Well, here are the three key lessons you can learn from them:

Play Hard to Get

Typically, when you go to a car dealership, you have to deal with a sleazy salesman trying to earn as much commission as possible from your purchase. You haggle about the price, take the car for a spin, talk numbers, and whatnot – overall, it just isn’t a very pleasant experience.

But that’s not the case with Tesla. Apparently, Tesla folk don’t really want to sell anything. Because get this:

  • Tesla doesn’t have any dealerships.
  • As a consequence, there are no tedious salesmen.
  • No bargaining, the price listed is the final price.
  • You order and configure your car online, without even seeing the actual car.
  • You’ll likely have to wait for a few weeks before you get your hands on your Tesla.

All these things add up to build a sense of exclusivity that makes you want one even more. It makes you feel special to own a Tesla – a feeling you can’t put a price on.

Not to mention the simplest and most effective form of marketing that results from this strategy – word of mouth. You naturally want others to know about your outstanding experience and it’s no surprise that people trust recommendations from friends and family more than they could ever trust ads of a brand promoting itself.

To facilitate that, a strong referral program can really go a long way – something that Tesla has.

By the way, there’s a subscription model for practically everything nowadays – including electric vehicles. So, if you wish to play your part in helping the environment and accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, but can’t afford one right now, or aren’t sure about the commitment to an electric vehicle, you can “subscribe” to an electric vehicle from startups like Steer.

Use Content Marketing to Champion Your Vision

Any company or brand needs to have a solid vision statement. Not only does it serve to guide the company in a forward direction during times of turmoil, but if used strategically, it can greatly help with marketing efforts.

And vision statements don’t get much stronger than Tesla’s:

“To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles.”

Of course, your everyday company can’t match that level of ambition in its statement – but it can emulate the strategy of leveraging a vision statement to form a staunch following.

Companies that believe in what they sell and stand behind their beliefs are the ones that make it big. If your company has a clear vision that resonates with the target audience, every marketing material should incorporate that message – in a thoughtful and methodical fashion.

It will help your company stand out for not only what you do or make, but for what you truly believe in. This is how you’ll rally a faithful fan following, and in turn, a loyal customer base.

Get Your CEO to be Social

It goes without saying, but Tesla won’t be where it is today without its charismatic and audacious CEO, Elon Musk.

Most CEOs are rather reluctant when it comes to going all out on social media. And that’s understandable – they have to be super careful about what they’re posting as they represent the company, so to speak. One wrong post can hurt the brand’s reputation, or even result in lawsuits.

But not Elon Musk. In fact, you might say that his social media popularity has led to Tesla’s success more than any money they spent (or didn’t) on marketing. With over 29 million followers and 9,000 tweets, calling him a mere “influencer” would be an understatement.

He’s open and straightforward (about failures too) and engages with his following almost daily. Tweeting about new business ideas on the drive home, complaining about Twitter locking his account, live broadcasting rocket launches – there’s no holding him back. He doesn’t deter from speaking what’s on his mind, unlike other CEOs who use social media just to share boring corporate updates and latest product information.

What’s the lesson here? Put a face to the name. Take a bit more personal approach, freely engage with your audience, and it could be all the marketing you’ll ever need (but don’t go overboard).

Sure, your company’s CEO won’t be nearly as influential as Musk, but their personal branding efforts will make a huge difference to the company’s growth. Thus, it is a good idea to let the marketing team dedicate a part of their strategy and efforts to work on improving the leadership’s social media presence and authority.

On an ending note – no, Tesla doesn’t have $0 as its marketing budget. They likely invest significant money in their marketing strategy. Instead, what it means is that the company spends $0 on paid advertising. The “$0 marketing budget” story is great marketing itself.