Posted on February 28, 2018 by Matt Pressman
Guest Blog Post: Galileo Russell*
Tesla is a completely unique auto brand.
Above: Jaden Smith shows off his Tesla Model X (Image: Teslarati)
Instead of spending money on advertising (like every other auto brand), Tesla spends money on making its products better.
In the increasingly transparent digital era we live in, this appears to be a winning formula.
Back in 2016, Global Equities research estimated that Tesla spent just $6 per car on advertising. This was unheard of at the time. The second lowest brand in the survey was Toyota at $246 per car, and the highest was Jaguar at over $3K per car.
Tesla spends a fraction of the advertising dollars of its competition, yet has signifcantly higher demand for its vehicles. Name one other automaker that has generated a 500,000 unit backlog for a car nobody could test drive.
Social Media Data
In October 2017, I tallied up Tesla's social media following (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) relative to 11 other mainstream auto brands.
The results were impressive. Despite being (by far) the newest brand, having the fewest cars on the road, and spending the least on marketing, Tesla had over 7M fans. This ranked the company 9th, out of the 12 brands.
Although Tesla’s aggregate following was in the lower tier, its engagement (comments and likes per post) was among the highest of any of the brands in the study. This led me to conclude that Tesla’s social following was generated organically (versus through paid advertising campaigns) and growing rapidly.
Now about 5 months later, I recalculated the followings, and the results were staggering.
Above: Tesla’s aggregate fans rose by 2.4M in the past 5 months, the 2nd fastest out of all the brands, with the exception of Mercedes-Benz that added 2.8M (Source: Hyperchange TV / Google Docs)
These results speak for themselves. Social media data is telling us that Tesla is gaining relevance and growing brand equity faster than any of its competition.
Above: On a percentage basis, the growth of Tesla’s social media following absolutely dwarfed every other brand (Source: Hyperchange TV / Google Docs)
What’s even more interesting is that if we include Elon Musk’s personal accounts in this study, the company's CEO actually makes Tesla’s social media growth look paltry. In the same period Elon Musk grew his social following (on just Twitter and Instagram) by 9.8M, to 26.2M total (an increase of 60%).
The combination of Tesla’s 9.5M fans and Musk’s (26.2M), would put Tesla on par with the two most followed brands in the auto world, BMW (37M) and Mercedes-Benz (36.7M).
Why is Tesla winning?
The enthusiasm customers have for Tesla comes from several factors. Beyond making a statement about sustainability, Teslas look amazing, and in many ways are far more technologically advanced than anything else on the market (fancy door handles, app control, massive touchscreen, autopilot, etc).
This translates into powerful word-of-mouth marketing. Owners want to be seen in their Tesla, and want to tell their friends about them.
This phenomena extends well beyond the average customer.
These are lots of celebrities who drive a Tesla: Morgan Freeman, Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, Matt Damon, Jay Leno, Steven Spielberg, Anthony Bourdain, Stephen Colbert… I could keep going.
Celebrities love showing off their Tesla. This is huge. And even better than Hollywood thinking Tesla is cool, is hip-hop thinking Tesla is cool.
Above: Pharell Williams shows off his Tesla Model S key fob with Elon Musk (Image: Elon Enthusiast)
Hip-hop and streetwear culture has been gaining momentum for years and has become the driving force for what’s ‘cool’ in our society. Tesla’s flagship cars have quietly become the go-to music video car and this has massive implications for the company’s brand equity.
To give you a sense of just how deep Tesla has permeated hip-hop culture, here are some of examples. Jaden Smith’s “Icon” music video is shot entirely in front of his Tesla Model X and has already amassed 56M+ views since November 2017. 2 Chainz posts videos of his Tesla driving himself all the time. Random rappers name check Tesla often in their lyrics including Dr. Dre, Young Thug, 2 Chainz, Tyler the Creator, Jaden Smith and Gucci Mane. And, long-established hip hop stars like Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z also drive a Tesla.
Above: Jay-Z and his Tesla Model S (Tumblr: Beyonce)
Having all of these influencers spread the word about Tesla is so important. Not only are they getting the brand out there and garnering millions of free video and audio impressions, but they're making Tesla cool.
Beyond rappers, Tesla has gained amazing free exposure in many different areas of pop culture.
For instance, SpaceX’s recent launch of a Tesla Roadster into space drove a huge amount of free press Tesla’s way. According to Google Trends, the event generated the most search traffic for Tesla ever, other than the Model 3 unveiling. And Tesla didn’t pay a cent for this.
Celebrities, rappers and rockets are just a few examples of pop culture doing the heavy lifting for Elon Musk’s electric vehicle empire.
Tesla’s social media marketing machine is a huge asset.
The trend of Tesla’s social presence organically growing faster than any of its competition is poised to accelerate in the coming years. The upcoming launch of the Roadster 2 could be a another catalyst increasing brand equity. I expect it to be the car of choice for rappers and celebrities around the world when it launches in 2020.
Having the ability to speak directly to consumers via social media allows Tesla to allocate dramatically fewer resources to marketing than its competition. This is a key differentiator in Tesla’s business model that will directly lead to higher operating margins in the long-term.
Be on the look-out — I'll continue to track Tesla’s social media progress and plan to have another update soon.
Youtube: Hyperchange TV
*Guest Blog Post: Galileo Russell is a 25 year-old Tesla shareholder based in NYC. He has been blogging about Tesla since 2012, and is the founder of HyperChange TV, a new YouTube channel about tech and finance news for millennials.