My Tesla-monial to EV Innovation
Nikola Tesla is often overlooked, but is one of the world's most accomplished inventors.
He's best known for his vital contributions to the commercialization of AC electricity, radio transmission, X-ray technology, and the AC induction motor, which is now revered as one of the 10 greatest discoveries of all time.
60 years after his death, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning paid homage to the late, great electrical engineer and physicist with their incorporation of Tesla Motors, and their goal of commercializing electric vehicles –– to wit, their flagship product, the Roadster, uses an AC motor that descended directly from Tesla's original 1882 design.
Four years after its inception, I wrote my first article at DailyVista about Tesla Motors' latest round of capital investment, and now, nearly 10 years later, I've watched them grow from a pie-in-the-sky concept to a household name.
Last year, we wondered how, despite their low-key, grassroots marketing efforts, Tesla was still able to sell 75% more cars in 2015 than they'd sold in 2014.
We concluded that consumer demand simply outweighed the need for robust marketing strategies, but Tesla's unprecedented success (including the recent launch of the Model 3) leads many to question how they became the Apple brand of the automotive industry.
First, they identified a gap in the alternative fuel market, and built a solid product to fill it.
Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, once stated: "Our goal is to create awareness of the potential of Electric Vehicles and particularly around those created by Tesla Motors."
Tesla was one of the first brands that dared Americans to imagine a world where people are no longer dependent on gasoline, and where electric vehicles not only reduce air pollution, but also offer a safe and efficient means of transportation.
(I say "Americans" because international science/tech companies have also attempted to mass-commercialize electric cars in their respective corners of the globe, as Shai Agassi, Founder of the defunct Israeli EV startup, Better Place, and current CEO of Newrgy, discusses in this TED Talk.)
Tesla's "Secret Master Plan" from the very beginning was:
- Build a sports car
- Use that money to build an affordable car
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car
- While doing the above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Mission (nearly) accomplished.
Secondly, they recognize that even the most solid product requires the best customer service.
Tesla's innovative technology and unique direct-to-consumer sales model have allowed them stay competitive, but it's their high-end, one-on-one customer service that keeps buyers happy.
Thirdly, technology and innovation is always at the forefront of their brand message.
As much as Tesla markets the car itself, their brand messaging is equally, if not predominantly, about the revolutionary and proprietary technology that drives the car (pun intended).
Musk had conceptually discussed his innovative vision for Tesla's most affordable EV, long before the Roadster began volume production, so it wasn't at all surprising that Tesla implemented a slightly more aggressive (and theatrical) marketing strategy to support the Model 3 launch.
To date, Tesla's digital strategy largely hinged on piquing the interest and curiosity of car geeks and tech journalists, but the Model 3 reveal required a bit more oomph to capture mainstream customers, resulting in 276,000 pre-orders in the first three days –– that's $276M, folks. Since then, that number has grown to 325,000 pre-orders (and $325M.)
Inc. Contributing Editor John Brandon summarized this comparison perfectly:
"It's a veil of secrecy that is only partially obscured… if that control over the ecosystem, the high-profile CEO pulling levers from behind a curtain, the lines of people waiting to order a product, the mountains of cash collected even before a product ships, and the fine control over a hype machine doesn't remind you of Apple, you are not paying attention."
The blogging, the social media ads, the thought leadership, and the media hype is just a small part of a much bigger picture, but, considering my husband and I paid the (fully refundable) $1,000 deposit to reserve our Model 3, I'm inclined to admit that their marketing plan worked... really well.
Continued praise for Tesla's previous models are what initially bolstered mass interest in the Model 3, and with the mounting pressure of increased demand to commercialize Tesla's most affordable car yet, many believe that the Model 3 won't meet our expectations –– I suppose only time will tell...
By: Stephanie Peterman