2016 was a year in which the Tesla Model X was cited as the ‘most significant’ vehicle, by growth contribution to total electric and plug-in hybrid sales in the U.S. It was also a year in which a survey of 2500 consumers illuminated how many Americans still feel uniformed about electric vehicles (EV).
However, Tesla’s innovative marketing strategy has just the right elements to enhance consumer background knowledge about what electric EVs are and how they work. In doing so, Tesla marketing will work reciprocally to place the Tesla brand at the forefront of the electric car industry. And it has the capacity to do so very quickly, if 2016 Tesla production numbers are any indicator.
How do Tesla sales differ from traditional car sales?
For most shoppers, the process of buying a car is essentially the same as it was a generation ago. Since long-established state franchise laws largely prohibit direct sales by auto manufacturers, an intermediary called a franchised dealer works as liaison between the manufacturer and the consumer. “The internet has dramatically changed the car-buying experience, but not the role of the dealer,” Maryann Keller & Associates wrote in a 2014 study for the National Automobile Dealers Association.
The Tesla buying experience is quite different. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, “Existing franchise dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between selling gasoline cars, which constitute the vast majority of their business, and selling the new technology of electric cars.” There are no Tesla dealers, commissioned sales people, or aggressive sales pitches. The price is non-negotiable, as the Tesla is built according to a series of customer self-select options. Tesla transactions are conducted online.
How do consumers learn about the Tesla brand if there is no traditional advertising?
Tesla offers a completely different marketing experience than does a traditional car dealership advertising campaign. With an emphasis on marketing over advertising, the Tesla brand is slowly becoming a household word. How does it do that?
It’s a movement, not just another car: Tesla Motors created a movement around its innovative products and its mission, and the brand is equally as inspiring with its marketing. With a disdain for paid advertising, Tesla Motors is leading the trend of reaching new customers through existing ones.
Media matters: Want to know the most recent Tesla profitability updates? Tune into a streamed invitation-only press conference. Care to learn about the newest features of Tesla engineering? Watch on YouTube as Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s vision for the future comes to life. Want to find reviews, and awards for Tesla cars? They’re all online, of course with corresponding Tesla media analysis and positioning. And throughout every single media event, regardless of its topic or source, the company’s primary message resonates: The folks at Tesla are trying to build the best car ever made, not just the best electric car, and revolutionize the energy industry. That message, in turn, is reproduced by the media and becomes part of a common public discourse.
Online information portal: Since people begin their journeys with Tesla on their website, Tesla has designed their online presence to be a balance of information, commerce, community, press releases, consumer updates, and connections to other business within the Tesla network.
Forums and user community: Central to the Tesla online experience is something as old as language itself: the story. Tesla brings to light the joy of belonging to the Tesla buying and ownership experience through giving its current clientele the tools to share their experiences. As it’s a public community, forums provide a lot of content and context about what it’s like to own and experience a Tesla, and prospective buyers can live vicariously through these storied Tesla experiences. These forums demonstrate how Tesla encourages owners to interact with the company, and such transparency is confidence-inspiring for the originally EV wary consumer.
Referral program: Tesla has one of the world’s most acclaimed refer-a-friend programs, which reflects the view that customers acquired through advocate referral programs spend more, are more loyal, and are more likely to refer their friends to the brand.
Distribution strategy: The Tesla retail outlet is distinct from any other car sales showroom. This is because, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Our technology is different, our car is different, and, as a result, our stores are intentionally different.” The physical stores serve only as displays and sometimes only galleries, due in part because in several states Tesla is not allowed to sell vehicles through its stores. These stores are carefully curated and visually appealing channels to promote the Tesla EV vehicles and help to solidify the Tesla brand in the consumer mind.
Destination charging: Tesla partners with frequently visited places such as restaurants, resorts, and shopping malls so Tesla owners can recharge their vehicle while engaging in retail activities. These charging sites are centrally located, well-lit and signed, and placed strategically for high visibility. Individuals with no prior knowledge of the Tesla brand get to see one up close and personal while they grab their groceries, offering a personal glimpse into a once-rare EV charging session.
Supercharger network: Indeed, the Supercharger network is an ecosystem unto itself and of a proprietary nature that ensures its customers will always have a safe haven to alleviate range anxiety.
With so many constituents worldwide pursuing advanced vehicle technologies that aim to reduce the consumption of petroleum in the forms of gasoline and diesel, consumer awareness and comfort with EVs is essential. Tesla’s marketing approaches, which are so dissimilar from the distasteful traditional car dealership model, appeals to today’s 21st century IT populace and can assist to reduce barriers to and enhance opportunities for a broader acceptance of new technologies, such as EVs in general.