Tesla, led by its superstar CEO Elon Musk, is arguably the darling of the car industry. Okay, let’s rephrase that because not everyone is on-board with team Tesla. Put differently, Tesla is the most-watched and most talked about car company in the automotive industry, a fact which isn’t all that surprising given Tesla’s goal of completely turning the auto industry on its head.
One of the more impressive facets about Tesla’s rise to prominence is that it managed to make a name for itself with absolutely no advertising. Going back to the Tesla Roadster, the company has literally spent zero dollars on marketing. Of course, the need for traditional advertising is less of an imperative given that the company has no shortage of wildly enthusiastic fans who effectively serve as unpaid ambassadors for the brand.
And the most famous of Tesla’s fans has to be none other than famed comedian and current talk show host Stephen Colbert. Colbert, a Model S owner, tellingly had Elon Musk appear as one of the first guests on his new late night talk show just a few weeks back. More recently, Colbert spent a good six minutes talking about Tesla after the company rolled out a software update which enabled autopilot features.
To be blunt, this is the type of advertising that money truly can’t buy.
That glowing Colbert report shows how Tesla benefits from celebrity enthusiasm — for free, from customers who include Oprah Winfrey — to promote the brand. Throw in some viral Internet clips, test drives and customer referral programs, and Tesla is able to spend money on developing products instead of on marketing…
“The Colbert segment was amazing because it was so long, it was Colbert, it was Colbert’s new show and instead of being playfully sarcastic he was overwhelmingly positive,” said Lincoln Merrihew, senior vice president of client services for Millward Brown Digital in Boston, who first watched the Colbert clip on YouTube. “The magic of a celebrity evangelist is that they love a product so much that they will talk about it for free. It was more than a simple endorsement; it was more like a commercial.”
Colbert’s segment on the Model S can be seen below.