Tesla has published a new “commercial.” Perhaps some people wouldn’t like to call it that, but in today’s world of YouTube-obsessed viewers, it’s clear that this is the place for cutting-edge companies to put their marketing dollars. Of course, with Tesla’s big brand appeal, it can get hundreds of thousands of views on a new YouTube video/commercial for relatively low cost, landing a much better ROI than paying for a TV commercial, but not every company is so lucky.
Tesla released a new YouTube video less than 24 hours ago, and it already has 85,000 views. Tesla fans are addicted, and the company is feeding them what they love to see. This new commercial is quite a good one in general, but several matters jumped out to me.
1. Europe is a key target market for increasing sales. Tesla demand has been leveling off (for the Model S and Model X options), and we don’t have a ton of insight into different markets, but highlighting France in this video seems to indicate that the company sees a lot of latent demand in this region.
Furthermore, remember that the first Model 3s delivered to Europe still won’t be here for many months. The backlog of reservations is 455,000, which has led to the company pushing Model S and Model X over the Model 3. Europe may be the best place to make this push.
2. Freedom & Escape. Rather than try to break down dreamy visions for what a car and car ownership are, Tesla is happy to reinforce some of the strongest elements of automobile emotional purchases. Those include fantasies about freedom and escape. In many ways, car ownership actually limits your freedom. Imagine what else could be done with the thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars you spend on a car that you may or may not need.
But the common appeal of cars (perhaps instilled in us from the countless automobile commercials we’ve watched attentively and subconsciously) is the ability to just get up and go somewhere far away whenever you feel like it. Tesla is putting its fingers on this common emotional tendency in order to attract more conventional, mass-market buyers and to pre-emptively knock down incessant consumers questions about range on a single charge and how fast the car takes to charge. The commercial even uses the term “ultimate freedom” to describe what the Model X offers … even though we all realize the phrase is hyperbolic.
3. Blatant & Subtle Greenery. Despite focusing on the core appeals of fun and escape as well, Tesla shows again that is more than willing to highlight climate/environmental matters in its marketing materials. Several comments and the overall background of this video show that the environment is hugely important to Tesla (we already knew that, but some Tesla newbies might not, and repeating the core points is important anyway). “We are all on this journey together” is one phrase that comes out of the short clip. The Model X owner also talks about becoming “part of the landscape.” It seems that line goes a bit too far, but hey, that’s auto advertising.
Image by Tesla
4. Hi-Tech Goodies. One of the sort of funny things about the video was that it first highlighted escaping the city for nature and becoming “part of the landscape” … but then busted out a drone for some high-tech appeal. Of course, that wasn’t the only high-tech appeal. The commercial started with the X’s falcon-wing doors opening. Those high-tech doors — a signature feature of the model that is as controversial as it is futuristic — popped open in other parts of the video as well. The giant navigation played a supporting role as well. Tesla is known for its tech leadership, and this short piece felt no hesitation weaving that into a broader narrative about escape, freedom, and being green. Indeed, advanced tech is often a form of escape, is often about providing more freedom, and can be about moving us toward a greener world.
5. The Future is Now. A closing line in the video is one any electric car driver should understand — “Once you’ve seen the world from a different perspective, you realize, the future is electric.” It’s a dramatic, shocking experience to go back to a gasoline car after driving an electric car for a bit, and especially a Tesla. The shaking, the rumbling, the noise, the pollution, the gas stations, the old-school navigation — it all feels like it’s from a distant generation, a distant era.
A couple of years ago, when prepping for a big presentation at the inaugural Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum in Vancouver, I came up with the phrase “The Future is Now.” I just thought it captured well the point that cleantech we have on the market today — solar panels, electric cars, wind turbines — will become the dominant tech of the future in their respective industries. People adopting and living with this tech today are living in the future of mainstream society*. I think this is clear to practically everyone who gets an electric car, and especially a Tesla. Heck, it quickly becomes clear to non-EV owners who drive a Model 3. It seems Tesla and this Model X owner tried to capture this point at the end of the video. It was a nice ending phrase. Other EV/Tesla owners will understand and appreciate it. I wonder how much those on the edge of jumping in will feel pulled in by it.
6. Real People. I’m not sure how this Model X owner and Tesla hooked up to create this video, but I do assume he’s a genuine owner. This approach featuring genuine owners is something Tesla has been rolling with for a while, and it fits a core element of Tesla’s communications approach. Rather than fluff things up with too much impersonal corporate talk, Tesla (especially CEO Elon Musk, but also other top personnel) like to get real and talk to the world like you and I talk to our friends.
Furthermore, Tesla loves to use its hugely supportive, excited, satisfied, and grate owner base to sell its products to others. There’s no better salesperson than a happy customer, of course, and the Tesla mission is so focused on providing social benefit and driving a social movement that it just makes sense to have a marketing approach that ties into that.
This commercial was clearly produced in an elegant and professional manner to promote Tesla, but it also used a minimalist ethic (something we’ll come back to another day) to highlight a semi-candid take on what life with a Tesla is like … or could be like. “Ultimate freedom” and “part of the landscape” still strike me as going too far and crossing over too much into the normal auto commercials of detached and perhaps even anti-social corporate giants, but I’m sure those kinds of “beyond normal” concepts do inspire people and trigger impulsive trips to the Tesla store.
7. The Greatest Drive. This is an interesting new webpage and marketing approach for Tesla. I’m not actually sure when it popped up, but it’s an appealing way to pull people into the Tesla site (and store) and it matches the clean, attractive, and premium appeal of Tesla cars. “The Greatest Drive” also seems like a test slogan for Tesla … or maybe I’m just reading that wrong. Anyhow, a topic I have been planning to come back to another day is actually slogans, so I’ll close this list on that.
In the end, the video closes with a minimalist sell: 0 emissions, 0 compromises. It’s not the most compelling sell, imho — I could offer a few variations on that which I think would inspire more action. But it’s again a fittingly minimalist closing of the curtain and emphasizes yet again how much Tesla cares about cutting emissions, while perhaps also working to ease many potential customers’ concerns that going electric means reducing one’s freedom and potential to explore or escape.
*Since creating this “The Future is Now” phrase (which I’m sure some humans before me used as well), I’ve been pushed by people above me to use it more, I’ve come to enjoy it for other reasons, and my pedantic side has become a little annoyed by the phrase since it’s fundamentally incorrect, but the explanation preceding the first asterisk explains the origins of the idea.
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