Is Tesla a legendary brand?

Tesla is making waves, and building a dynamic brand and doing it in style, performance, and function. 



Tesla’s Building A Legendary Brand And So Can You


Recently, Tesla Motors started taking $1000 deposits for the new Model 3.  In the first week, they collected 325,000 deposits, representing about $14 billion in sales.  That‘s a lot of cars.  And about what GM’s Buick brand sells in a quarter.

It is what your customers say that determines the value of your brand Tesla is building a legendary brand.  Buick is rebuilding their brand – and there’s value in considering both of them.

In the heyday of Mad Men and GM, there was an accepted wisdom.  Tell your customers a great story and success was the likely outcome.  The velocity, volume, variety and transparency of communications changed that forever.  Today it is not what you say about your brand that matters.  It is what your customers say that determines the value of your brand.

GM, And Buick In Particular, Have Been Working On Improving Quality For Years

Buick has a lot to be proud about.  It was the first American car brand to crack Consumer Reports’ Top Ten auto brands in 2015 at #7.  Buick ranked #2 among all car brands on J.D. Power’s 2015 Vehicle Dependability Study.  In addition, there was a real improvement in customer service at the dealerships.  In fact, J.D. Power ranked Buick dealers #1 among the top 20 mass-market brands for a second consecutive year in 2015.

This is good news.  Buick’s reputation is on the mend after decades of neglect.  Offering new models that are class leaders makes Buick more profitable per sale.  Better brands sell at premium prices, with fewer incentives.

Why Quality Matters So Much This Time

This is not GM’s first rodeo.  In 1988, Oldsmobile wanted to appeal to younger people; because their buyers were aging and dying off.  They introduced a new story to buyers with the slogan – “Not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

The story changed but the quality of the cars and the drivers’ experience did not.  Young people knew it was still their father’s Oldsmobile.  The misleading ads alienated Oldsmobile from its existing older market, yet it failed to win them a younger market.  Oldsmobile launched its new messaging without any new product or market.  The Oldsmobile brand lingered, then was put down in 2000.

Buick Sees Itself Real

“That’s not a Buick!” and “Is that a Buick?” are slogans that use self-deprecating humor based on the customer’s perspective of the brand.  Unlike Oldsmobile, the campaign narrative does not run from Buick’s recent history.  In the ads people, both young and old, are surprised to find the car they’re in is a Buick.

Buick campaigns now have a consistent story across all marketing platforms.  The message might resonate with customers because it shows Buick as friendly and candid, as their agency tells it.  That story also matches the reality customers perceive.

When the story you tell matches the story customers tell and experience, you have a thriving brand. 

Customer Experience Drives Tesla’s Brand

Tesla customers tell a great story.  Tesla may become the Apple computer of the car industry.  Like Apple, it sells a product that intends to be a radical improvement on what has come before.  Like Apple, it focuses on great products and innovation.  It also owns its retail distribution; there is no Tesla franchisee anywhere.  Last, but not least, it controls the entire customer ecosystem.

Tesla’s user forums and online community play key roles.  They encourage owners to interact with the company and the community with transparency.  This virtuous loop provides rich customer-centric content for prospective buyers.  Oh, by the way, Tesla doesn’t spend a penny on ads.

Tesla sells great products and extends the product by orchestrating a legendary buying and ownership experience.

Building And Rebuilding Your Brand

You may need to measure success differently, or at least expand the definition.  You have to balance data-driven decision making with the needs of the customer.   Neuroscience has proven that focusing on numbers suppresses empathy.  The minute your head is in a spreadsheet or data-filled dashboard, you lose empathy for what it is like to be your customer.

There is a counterintuitive opportunity; shift the spotlight away from the numbers (impressions, sales, conversions, etc.) and focus on building a great customer experience.  Great customer experience is no accident.  Designing and optimizing customer experiences has become essential to building a legendary brand.

Whether you are a retailer, service provider, or SaaS company, your entire organization needs to be aligned in order to deliver a great customer experience.  While many companies think they are centered on their customers, not many customers feel like companies actually care about them.

Powerful stories influence customers.  Stories communicate your company’s core values.  Can you point to tons of stories that illustrate what your CEO means when she says, “We are a customer-centric company?”  If you can, then share those stories!  Just like the legendary customer service story of an associate from apparel retailer, Nordstroms accepting a return of snow tires inspiring their teams to stretch the limits of their service.  If you can’t, then build a true story that aligns everyone – from the board room to the stock room – and you will build your brand. 

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2 Comments to “Is Tesla a legendary brand?”

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