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Generation Tesla: From Electric Car to Marketing Phenomenon

Red Tesla car outside Tesla shop
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Tesla has grown from an idealistic Silicon Valley startup into a disruptive force in the US automotive industry within a mere 13 years. Cleverly combining a great product, great ambitions and a charismatic, involved CEO, the electric car manufacturer is poised to become a global superbrand. But what can other companies learn from Tesla’s success story?

Tesla’s bold proposition of providing the market with electric cars that are as desirable as they are affordable is close to becoming a reality. The brand is being touted as the Apple of the automotive industry. Here’s how they did it.

In spring 2016, when CEO Elon Musk revealed Model 3, Tesla’s first car for the mass market, the company reportedly received a staggering 325,000 online pre-orders within a week. The climax of a hype co-created by a minimalist but clever marketing strategy.

A product that works on many levels

Tesla builds a solid foundation for each marketing strategy it launches by designing a great product. Eco-friendly cars are a hard sell if they neglect the other forces that drive car buyers: slick design, a sense of comfort, reach and sheer driving pleasure. Tesla offers all this, wrapped up in a neat package with ecological responsibility.

Learning: Get your product right, first .

Plenty of personality

Tesla’s CEO and iconic entrepreneur Elon Musk is an integral part of the brand and the company’s social media-heavy marketing strategy. Clearly invested in the dreams he sells, Musk’s Twitter account has  4.5 million followers who regularly share his messages and articles, spreading the Tesla brand internationally, just as many devoted tech editors do.

Learning: A strong personality makes for a strong brand.

Community and experience instead of hard selling

Tesla has turned the conventional sales distribution system on its head by cutting out classic dealerships and substituting them with kiosk-like stores where technical enthusiasts provide details about the car rather than car sales people itching to make a sale. Moreover, user forums and online communities have been part of Tesla’s communications from day one.

Learning: Increase the desirability of the product by being more marketing-oriented and less sales-oriented.  

Aiming high – then targeting a mass market

With its roadster model, Tesla didn’t just launch an electric car. It created a status symbol that people passionately desired whether they were able to afford it or not. Tesla’s green supercar was discussed all over the web, whetting the appetite of a much broader target group. The result was a pre-ordering frenzy when the much more affordable Model 3 was finally presented.

Learning: Think niche first, then widen the focus.


Picture of Peter Ramsenthaler

Peter Ramsenthaler

When working for a global brand back in the 90s, Peter realized that spreadsheet overload and inefficient processes were holding back the marketing team. That’s when he decided to build a martech platform that gives businesses back control and allows marketers to bring great ideas to life.