5 Surprising Marketing Moves from Tesla that Are Actually Brilliant

Some of the most successful marketing tactics that Tesla used to build its following seemed completely insane at first. Here’s how to apply them to your own brand.

Not many brands are as fascinating as Tesla.

When Tesla built its brand, it wasn’t the first automotive manufacturer. It wasn’t even the first to bring an electric vehicle to market. So how did they grab our attention?

The fact is, Tesla is a fascinating concept to begin with. But on top of building personal vehicles that drove like race cars, they used a few marketing tactics that may have seemed counterintuitive.

Rather than focusing on what to TELL their customers and prospects, they focused on how the world saw the brand for what they DID. And the world was fascinated by the Tesla brand.

Any company, in any industry, can fascinate by applying these innovative marketing tactics.

1. Cult-like charging stations
Imagine driving up to a charging station. Every other car there is a Tesla. And every other driver is a Tesla owner. No Mercedes, no Lexus, no Porsche. Now that’s an exclusive form of service.

It’s almost like a fan base club house. Tesla owners talk to other Tesla owners. It’s a love fest.

When people feel that they’re part of the select few, they’re more committed. And they make people on the outside want to get inside to see what all the fuss is about, building a sort of exclusivity.

Are there exclusive offers that you can extend to your own customer base? Think about hosting a luxurious customer event so that you can organically build a network of raving fans.

2. Encouraging consumers to “hold the puppy”
If you have kids, you might be familiar with this phrase: “I don’t want to buy the puppy. I just want to hold the puppy.” Of course, once you’ve held the puppy, you’ve already bonded with it.

Tesla built a sales process all around holding the puppy (or in this case, the car).

Tesla showrooms are essentially “galleries,” where consumers are allowed to look, but not buy. All orders are taken online. This might seem like a pain (and it kind of is) but here’s the genius: It means that the salesperson drives the car to your home.

Once you’ve seen that car parked in your own driveway, it’s really easy to project a future that includes your driveway and that car. And just like that, you’ve held the puppy.

Are there products that you can deliver in person to your customers’ homes? Can you offer a service on a trial basis to ensure that your customers experience complete satisfaction?

3. The required NDA
Tesla retains ultra-confidentiality by requiring all visitors to sign a contractual NDA. All visitors. Even if they are just visiting the company’s corporate offices, and not its research and design facilities.

The chosen few who do get through that confidentiality gauntlet feel like celebrities. They got access to something so rare and insider that few ever will. It says “There’s something incredibly rare happening here, and we think you’re one of the few who deserve to see it.”

What if you made every client sign an NDA before receiving your product or services?

I tried this once, in a little experiment. Before prospects could see the plan for my new entrepreneurial course, they had to sign an NDA that they would not disclose any information about the course material. As a result, people perceived the course as proprietary, scarce, and intensely valuable. That grew sales more than I could have imagined.

4. Under-the-radar PR
Most first-tier auto brands seek high-profile forms of media to build awareness of their brand, endlessly grinding in the message with TV budgets. Tesla, on the other hand, reinvents its PR in the same way that they reinvented the electric car. To share some of their most PR-worthy messages, they chose an unassuming platform: single tweets on Twitter. The company used the platform to share about charitable responses to natural disasters that affected whole communities and were already top of mind across all media.

With your own business, find an opportunity to do a significant charitable deed or give away an awesome gift. The public’s response may be all the PR you need. Suddenly, your brand is newsworthy.

5. Unexpected way to brand the car
Tesla describes itself as a battery company first, and an automobile manufacturer second. In so doing, not only have they opened up the scope of their brand for other markets, but they’ve identified the element that is often viewed as the weakest link in other electric vehicles. By placing the focus on their competitors’ point of weakness, they’ve created the illusion of superior quality. Boom.

Are there components of your business that will allow you to expand in unexpected ways?

A kitchen appliance manufacturer, for instance, can comment on the latest trends in kitchen design. A realtor can hold seminars on neighborhood safety or outdoor fitness. A financial planner can give clear direction and organize panel discussions on compliance with new tax laws.

Take a cue from Tesla, and the success of your brand will accelerate.

A version of this article was originally published on Inc.com.

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About the author

Sally Hogshead

Sally skyrocketed to the top of the advertising world in her early 20s, fascinating millions of consumers for clients such as MINI Cooper and Coca-Cola. Since then, she’s published two New York Times bestsellers on the science of fascination, and is one of only 172 living members in the Speaker Hall of Fame. Over a million professionals have taken the Fascination Advantage® personality test to discover how others perceive their communication.

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