Elon Musk’s Marketing Strategy Secrets
Here’s a fun fact: over the last 13 years, Elon Musk tweeted an average of almost four tweets a day! With his more-than-83 million followers, these facts alone are enough to provide all the awareness a brand needs.
As a father of two, I can’t even imagine how Elon Musk, a father of eight(!) children, including a pair of twins and a set of triplets, can even find time to tweet.
We are dealing here with a completely different story.
You can love or hate Elon Musk. You can think that he is a good CEO or not, but there is no doubt that he is among the best marketers of his time, sharing the hall of fame with people such as Steve Jobs or Benjamin Netanyahu.
Recently, he has also blown everyone’s minds with his decision to buy Twitter, a decision that demonstrates his strategic thinking and how he calculates his business moves.
What can CMOs and marketing managers learn from him, and how can we apply Musk’s tactics to our marketing strategy?
In this article, we will explore the principles, ways of thinking, and psychological methods Elon Musk uses to build and grow a vast community of followers and how we can apply them to our brand’s marketing.
Let’s get started.
Elon Musk’s Marketing Strategy Secrets
1. Think Strategically
Let’s say you want to buy Twitter, but the owners do not wish to sell. In a way, you have to lead them to accept your decision, whether by making them think differently or forcing them to do so.
To change one’s decision, we need to carefully plan and calculate our path there. Therefore, knowing your goal and setting your strategy is critical.
Strategy is a part of almost every decision we make. However, it’s not a plan we all sit and think about once every quarter or year. Instead, strategy is a state of mind we should adopt to help us properly set the different pieces of the puzzle.
So how did Elon Musk convince Twitter to sell?
Let’s analyze his main actions:
- First, he bought 9% of Twitter’s shares.
- Although he could, he refused to join the board (being a board member limits the number of shares they can buy).
- He gained the public’s support using transparency; he constantly interviewed about it, explained his ideas and vision, and talked about freedom of speech.
- He kept the threat to sell all his shares if the board would not approve his offer, the carrot-and-stick approach, making them responsible for a possible crash in stock price.
These calculated actions eventually cleared the way to take control of Twitter. Quite impressive, isn’t it?
You can love or hate Elon Musk. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that he is among the best marketers of his time. Let's explore why.
Simon Sinek once said, “Our vision is only actionable if we share it,” Elon Musk seems to act according to this notion; he constantly tweets his thoughts and decisions, making them easy to follow.
It’s fascinating to see how a minor action like a tweet that initially seems inconsequential will lead to such an outcome.
Elon Musk’s first tweet
2. Zero dollar marketing
The essence of marketing is to build mental and physical availability, so buyers will find it easy to buy your product. It requires reach, distinctiveness, and consistency.
Brand Reach is the estimated number of potential customers you can reach with your marketing effort.
Brand Distinctiveness is how a brand can be recognized as unique, having its own feel and look, and identified as one of a kind.
So how does Elon Musk help Tesla reach their potential customers and be distinctive while his paid media campaigns spend zero dollars?
Twelve years of tweets, some of which are not politically correct, four tweets per day, helped Elon musk reach his marketing strategy goals.
On top of that, Musk shares his revolutionary ideas and talks about his vision and agenda everywhere he goes, making people extremely excited about attending his public speaking events. In that way, he increases his reach and distinctiveness even further.
This consistency in marketing also leads to a Halo effect that I will elaborate on later in the article.
Eventually, Musk succeeded in connecting his Twitter account and Tesla, so his Twitter account’s reach, distinctiveness, and consistency are reflected in Tesla’s brand.
3. One of us
Most CEOs and marketing managers occasionally use social networks to publish achievements and success stories and avoid posting extreme opinions; I call this type of sharing “I’m happy to announce” posts. Although these managers might be perceived as professional and serious, probably as they intend to, it ends up there. As a result, they are detached from their followers.
So how does Elon Musk do it?
He is putting on a show as if he was a nobody. It allows him to say (almost) whatever he feels and respond to whoever he wants, often not obeying the PC rules.
He is also very reachable – responding to threads towards him or any of his businesses, replies, customer complaints, and idea suggestions.
All of that makes him more human and less machine or formal position holder, making people want to follow him and interact with him, increasing his popularity and reach.
Musk is an authentic influencer; his approach is different from most CEOs we know, who treat their social assets as another marketing tool or even a task.
4. ‘You can trust me’ effect
To have influence, you need to be trusted and respected, and if you aren’t authentic, no one will trust you. Therefore, being authentic and trustworthy is the only way to become a real influencer.
A study made by Hernandez-Fernandez and Lewis in 2019 has shown that the three antecedents, individuality, consistency, and continuity, effectively capture and positively influence consumer perceptions of brand authenticity.
In other words: if you want to build an authentic brand, you need to have these three elements. Why? Because higher consumer perception of brand authenticity results in higher perceived value and brand trust.
How does Elon Musk do it?
In 2020, Musk tweeted that Tesla’s stock price “is too high, ” leading to a drop in share price, making him also face problems from the SEC for tweeting about it. It’s hard, if any, to find another company owner or CEO that makes such a statement about his company, leading the stock to drop by more than 10%.
5. Stand out in the crowd
Will Coca-Cola ever sell cars? If you ask Elon Musk, everything is possible as long as it contributes to the vision and mission of the company, or even if it’s just funny.
These days people are flooded with so many stories and posts that they mentally block most of the content. In advertising, it is called ‘ad blindness‘. Meaning that if you want your brand to be memorable or even noticed, you have to stand out in the crowd
How does Elon Musk stand out?
He is just…different, using what science refers to as the Von Restorff Effect. When multiple similar objects are present, the one that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered.
One example is the FlameThrower, made by one of Elon’s companies: The Boring Company. While you expect Elon to sell cars, he is creating flamethrowers – a product that has little use or demand.
So while you expect him to convince you to buy it – he is doing the opposite, asking you not to buy it – making it even more interesting – drawing a lot of attention.
6. Investor relations marketing 2.0
In marketing, you always have to think about your audience: who are they, what they love and hate, what are their pain points, etc.
Defining accurate audience segments and using the right message for each is key for successful, performance-driven campaigns.
A public company has to market its products and success not only to clients but also to its investors, who are in charge of many aspects of the company’s equity and ability to grow.
And investors love to see how their investment turns into profit, meaning – to see the stock rising. The ability to keep investors engaged and attract new investors is called investor marketing or investor relations marketing.
Why do you even need investor relations marketing? According to Harvard, regular efforts to communicate will pay handsome dividends: Your investors will get a fuller picture of the company they hold, and you will gain insights into their most pressing concerns.
So how does Elon Musk do it?
Well, he is not going to lose his panties.
In 2018, Musk delivered on his promise to produce a pair of “short shorts” to celebrate his victory over investors who had bet against Tesla (also called short investors).
He launched a special edition of Tesla shorts in red satin with “S3XY” written on the backside, a tribute to all Tesla models (S, 3, X, and Y). The price was $69.420; also a tribute to the price Elon Musk offered to repurchase the company in 2018 ($420 per stock).
This action only led to an enormous response from all media channels, shorts were selling out quickly, and the stock rose 10% the next day.
7. The hype-master
A vital component of a successful release is building hype around your new product. But how do you do it? Using a range of marketing channels can create brand awareness and get people interested in your latest offering. Utilizing these tools in a way that gets people excited is the key.
Elon Musk has demonstrated how he can do it right by presenting Tesla’s new Cybertruck in 2019. Musk said that Tesla would charge $100 for pre-ordering a Cybertruck, fully refundable.
The idea was that everyone can order a Cybertruck right now, post a screenshot of it to Instagram, Twitter or YouTube and then eventually get their $100 back.
Tesla Cyberturcks were ordered more than 200,000 times in only two days, generating a nice $20 million income. Further still – for some time, if you had visited Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube (and who doesn’t?), you would have thought everyone was buying the trucks because all you would see was people announcing it.
Most people probably wouldn’t buy these trucks, and they don’t even need them. However, because the order is so cheap and refundable, many people have been tempted to pre-order, spreading the word to everyone they know. As a result, Tesla’s Cybertruck became so popular that it was almost impossible not to hear about it or witness someone who had purchased one.
8. Marketing decision-making methodology
How to make a successful marketing decision?
While developing your marketing strategy, annual marketing plan, or re-evaluating your marketing mix, you are constantly faced with complex questions and forced to make big decisions. You need to decide on the right approach for your marketing strategies, funnels, or go-to-market strategy.
Musk described to Rolling Stone reporter Neil Strauss that he always uses the same method to solve tricky problems and answer complex questions.
According to Musk, the process goes as follows:
1. Ask a question.
2. Gather as much evidence as possible about it.
3. Develop axioms based on the evidence and assign a probability of truth to each one.
4. Draw a conclusion based on cogency to determine: Are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability?
5. Attempt to disprove the conclusion. Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion.
6. If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you’re probably right, but you’re not certainly right.
To summarise, I can say that there are so many more examples of how Elom musk inspires me, and probably continte doing so. Many things can be taught and copied for your brand in so many ways.