3 Bits of Marketing Genius We Can All Pick Up From Tesla

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As I was taking a walk yesterday, I realized that Tesla’s marketing engine had produced 3 pieces of genius that we can all learn something from:

  1. They’ve taken ownership of the term “electric car” in the market’s mind.
  2. They’ve captured this mindshare despite other companies already having electric cars on the market before Tesla through a deft move to flank the competition by being all electric from the start.
  3. Through sleight of hand branding, they’ve also attached the attribution “sexy” to their entire line-up.

Allow me to explain.


One of the most powerful things you can do in marketing is to own a word in your market’s mind.

Let me throw out 3 words and you tell me what you come up with:

  1. Hybrid
  2. Tablet
  3. Bourbon

What did you get?

My back of the envelope was Prius, iPad, and Jim Beam.

When I went to search for them, I found out that for years Prius was the number one selling hybrid in the world; the iPad is still outselling other brands by a big gap; and, Jim Beam is the number one bourbon in the world.

This is powerful because once you own a word in your markets, you move towards a point where you become the generic of that market.

That’s the position that Tesla now owns in the market of electric cars.

When you think of electric, you think of Tesla.

Owning this term in your market’s mind historically leads to a huge advantage in terms of market share. In the case of the iPad, the iPad holds somewhere between 25-27% of the market compared to the next two closest competitors with about 15% and 10%.

In many markets, a ratio of about 3-2-1 ratio of market share is pretty consistent.


Early reports of the Tesla were that it was going to be some sort of gas/plug hybrid.

Which would might have made for an interesting case study, but likely wouldn’t have led to much success.


Because hybrid was already owned by Prius and even if the performance of the Tesla was radically different, hybrid would have still defaulted back to Prius and Toyota.

And, due to this, Tesla would have struggled to differentiate themselves from everyone else.

By going around other car manufacturers, and being the first all-electric car manufacturer, Tesla was able to take ownership of the term “electric” and position themselves as the #1 all-electric automobile manufacturer, Tesla won a huge advantage.

In fact, Tesla was over half of the US market for electric car sales in 2018 despite only offering 3 models.

Powerful because the first person or business into any market is more likely or not going to define the market and over time continue to be the one that wears the crown of leadership in the market.


When you talk to Tesla owners, they mention their love for their cars.

When journalists write about the design of Tesla, they write about how elegant and beautiful it is.

When you look at the naming that Elon Musk did, you see sexy.

These things all built on each other to get Tesla to the point where they have the sexiest car brand in the world.

You might point out the phenomenon of “ice-ing” that has been going on. And, you’d be wrong if you didn’t think that this was a sign of Tesla winning.


Because no one that isn’t jealous or envious of the Tesla would spend the time or effort to “ICE” an electric car charging station.

What is “sexy” in the world of marketing and branding?

It is something mysterious and inexplicable. It is the mystique around the product that brings all of its attributes together in a package that people want to have.

And, by being deliberate in the design, the model naming, and by encouraging word of mouth, Tesla stole the idea of a sexy car for itself.

These are just 3 ideas, but they struck me as important and things we can and should learn from others.

What do you think?

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