New car shopping—an experience that can be full of excitement (or dread) that millions of Americans undergo every year. However, whatever the reason this new purchase is necessary, it is usually an experience nonetheless.
From tiring kicking and test-driving to bargaining with salesmen, the typical chain of events that takes place before buying a car consists of an unending amount of personal interactions with people, products, and most importantly—the vehicle you eventually end up purchasing.
With this personal experience at the forefront of the car-buying experience, it’s usually not even a consideration to carry out the purchase of your new vehicle entirely online. Besides, how will you even know if it “feels right”? Yet, over the past year, hundreds of thousands of Americans have pre-ordered a single vehicle they have never driven, sat in, or even seen. And I’m not talking about old used Honda Civics kids find on Craigslist for a few grand; I’m talking about the serious investment of $35,000 into a brand new car.
I’m talking about the Tesla Model 3. The phenomenon that has totally defied the standards of the automotive industry with more pre-orders than Tesla can keep up with. Although no official numbers have been released by Tesla, it is estimated that close to a million people have pre-ordered this vehicle, with nothing more than a product description and a few pictures. So how did a product launch that was completely out of the industry normal achieve so much success? Brand. Trust.
Yes, Tesla’s cars have an exceptional level of innovation, but a million new “innovative” products are released every year. The reason this particular product gained such traction was because of the brand name behind it. Tesla. When you hear it, you already have a perception, a belief that anything they make is going to be great, high-quality, innovative, and ultimately satisfying. But why? Most of you probably haven’t even owned a Tesla before, yet you have a certain level of faith in their quality because that is the brand that they have so strategically created. No, it’s not just coincidence, no it isn’t just the luck of the draw, it’s a true example of successful strategic branding at its finest.
From the start, Tesla’s approach to branding was quite different from other players in the automotive industry. They took the position as a “listener” instead of a “teller”—no major advertising campaigns, no grandiose celebrity endorsements, not even that much product promotion on their social media. Instead, they focused on creating an incredible product and making it accessible to anyone who wanted to experience it—even individuals who weren’t necessarily looking for a car. They placed unique mini showrooms in high-traffic locations like shopping malls, and let people’s intrigue takeover. Who wouldn’t be interested at getting a closer look at the revolutionary looking vehicle parked right next to Macy’s?
Because of this, awareness grew and admiration came along with it. Even if Tesla wasn’t “telling”; the world was. The buzz that was generated by people everywhere exponentially surpassed what any mass-media marketing campaign could have done, and in turn ingrained the priceless asset of brand trust into their company’s reputation. Fast forward to today, and look what that trust is allowing them to do now.
It may seem like an elementary lesson to some, but branding can often be overlooked, considered as a side note that comes after establishing a business instead of the starting priority that determines an overall strategy, because “what can branding even really do anyway?” Well, branding can cause a million and some-odd people to purchase a brand new car for more than thirty thousand dollars…without ever having been behind the wheel.