Lessons to learn from Tesla on building a powerful brand
Tesla is an exciting brand. The Palo Alto progressive tech firm has shaken the auto world by imagining and then swiftly creating an ecological car company with a very tight focus: to make electric driving desirable. And it has lived up to its brand promise, creating luxury electric cars that are fast to drive, swift and simple to charge, are intelligently designed, offer a luxurious environment, and seamlessly connect our worlds.
Elon Musk, the company CEO, knew that if he could offer electric cars that don’t ask us to compromise, rather they become the desired choice for motorists, then he was onto a winner. His marque has found a bit of a cult status, especially in California where there is more of a focus on a sustainable lifestyle.
Soon Tesla cars will be available to a wider audience thanks to the more affordable entry-level Model 3, a five-seater pure electric car promising a 200-mile range and with a starting price of $35,000, which will join the pinnacle Model S and Model X crossover this year.
As a branding and design agency, we are always interested in following such companies as Tesla – it inspires our thinking and methodology. In many ways, Tesla has been lucky in that it doesn’t have a direct motoring heritage that can sometimes hold you back. And of course, smaller production batches also help with being more spontaneous.
Yet, there is more to it than that. The bigger car companies were born in another era of motoring – when the combustion engine was worshipped, when issues like emissions, safety regulations were off the table. It has taken a while to alter the thinking in boardrooms where perhaps too many suits are involved in making decisions.
Tesla is taking a holistic approach to sustainable driving to include all the ‘furniture’ needed to help make it as easy as possible to own an electric car. Recently, it began installing special ‘superchargers’ in key geographic locations, capable of charging Tesla vehicles at up to 120 kW, about 170 miles of range, in as little as 30 minutes.
The firm has wider ambitions to promote a sustainable lifestyle too. Powerwall 2 is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that enables self-consumption of solar power, emergency backup, load shifting, and other grid service applications. Furthermore, Musk announced recently that going forward all the cars, including Model 3, will come with the necessary hardware to support fully autonomous driving when our roads are reading for driverless cars.
I went to visit the company’s largest European showroom in Chiswick, west London on its opening night last month. It’s set on a busy roundabout visible to motorists making their way into London from Heathrow and the surrounding suburbs.
What’s noticeable about this clean and uncluttered space is that there is little if no hint of salesmanship. The white interior acts more like a blank canvas to display the car collection with staff at hand to explain away the mechanics.
This, it turns out, is a big part of the brand promise, and clearly set out by Musk who believes in offering an educational environment where customers and the public can learn about electric driving, the technology, and the supporting services. This is not unlike what, for instance, Apple has been doing with its stores where the public are encouraged to spend their leisure time playing around with the gadgets as smiling tech-heads roam around offering knowledge. Musk wants us to fall in love with Tesla in much the same way and spending a little time at the showroom then driving a Model S, I feel I may just do so.
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