Tesla’s power of story is as strong today, with the recent merger of SolarCity, as it was ten long years ago when Elon Musk announced his “secret” master plan. That’s because the Tesla narrative, or its essential story, has continually pointed to the mission to expedite a global change from a “mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy” towards a solar electric economy.
Saving the world is pretty compelling, after all.
A large part of the Tesla story has been that its products are second to none. Tesla’s purpose-driven business narrative, which has the continual backdrop of providing a sustainable solution to climate change, has been contained in every single blog update, every Elon Musk public appearance, and every Tesla announcement of a new/ groundbreaking/ technologically-advanced innovation. That central idea emerges through its electric vehicle catalog, which includes software updates over service calls and autonomous driving capabilities. The possibility of a fully functioning smart house may only be available through Tesla’s integration of solar roof tiles, the Powerwall 2 battery storage unit, and the capacity to recharge the electric vehicle onsite. Even SpaceX shows that people and things can be placed in space in a way that is far more economical than ever previously thought.
It is a singular narrative formula that has worked without a need for Tesla to advertise because it galvanizes strong public sentiment while changing the way we interact with each other and our environments.
Rather than calling upon a business model that reacts to critics, Tesla balances its narrative between supportive and oppositional constituents. An example of this is how Tesla focuses on the transformational power of driverless cars. Transformation resonates more with consumers than does a focus on predicted safety benefits. The advancement of driverless cars, especially when framed around the transformational power of an intelligent transportation system, demonstrates to the public a series of methods to alleviate commuters from the day-to-day inconvenience and hours of time traditionally spent behind the wheel, with huge dividends for productivity.
The Tesla narrative emphasizes the technological opportunities to explore new markets, mobilize previously static populations, and change the layout of our physical spaces and the dynamics of our personal lives for the better.
Another example is how Tesla’s massive manufacturing expansion resonated as the underlying narrative for Tesla in 2015 for investors, along with a very important Model X release. Part of investors’ fascination with Tesla has always been the perceived future advantage in electric car production over traditional automakers through the evolution of manufacturing technology and software. Industrial networking with a heavy emphasis on automation and robotic manufacturing has changed the way that products are produced. has changed the way that products are produced. It’s the Internet of Things translated in a way that makes sense to consumers through a consistent Tesla narrative.
Of course, no company, Tesla included, can afford to ignore the public’s underlying beliefs on emerging technologies as a crucial part of its product and brand strategies. A May 2016 Tesla crash did find Tesla countering consumer concerns with statistics of current road fatalities and the projected decrease of such fatalities in a world of fully automated transportation. Acknowledging the tragic loss, Tesla described how its Autopilot feature is disabled by default, “to ensure that every time the feature is used, it is used as safely as possible.” Ultimately, the public associated the new technology with new risks, moving beyond a pure safety argument into an embrace of a technological future closer than once thought possible.
Most recently, Elon Musk has found himself the target of fake news. In response, he continues to tap into the Tesla narrative, seeking out a supportive public to help him uncover the individuals responsible for attacks on his person and company. His plea touches on deep-seated and pervasive ideas about trust in sustainable technology. The Tesla narrative continues to tap into positive messages about decentralized solar energy in a variety of forms that resonates with the public.
The Tesla narrative implies that joining a like-minded group of individuals will reward you with Tesla’s innovation down the road. It provides a vision of alternative energy framed as revolutionary, profitable, and worth the stock investment for the dividends it will pay in years to come. As the leading technology innovator in the world today, Tesla’s narrative becomes stronger as the stakes become higher.