Tesla timeline: how the electric car company built a global brand without advertising

Tesla's recent Model 3 launch is the culmination a strategy that has enabled the company to create a global brand without spending any money on advertising.

Tesla timeline: how the electric car company built a global brand without advertising

The electric car manufacturer has no ad agency or chief marketing officer and does no paid advertising and yet it has built a reputation as one of the world’s coolest brands.

Through canny PR, which has even involved highly publicised legal battles, the company has built a strong brand narrative that positions Tesla as a high-end disruptive force in a car industry long overdue a shake-up.

All this has been spearheaded by the founder and chief executive, Elon Musk, who has been compared to Tony Stark, the fictional billionaire and engineering genius also known as Iron Man.  

Here Marketing takes a look back at Tesla’s history and examines how the brand has achieved its enviable a reputation with next to no marketing budget.

All this is spearheaded by founder and chief executive Elon Musk, who is often compared to a real-life Tony Stark of Ironman fame.

Marketing takes a look back at the company’s history and how it has built such a reputation with next to no marketing budget.

Representatives will be there to answer questions, assist with a purchase \– only if asked \– and to see if there is any way they can be helpful.\”

The first store opened in the Bay Area of San Francisco in the fourth quarter. Shoppers were not able to buy the cars in the store but had to order them directly from Tesla online. The stores\, along with word-of-mouth and PR\, act as Tesla\’s advertising.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/store.jpg'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2006', title: 'Tesla Roadster', content: 'Tesla first came to public prominence when it unveiled the Tesla Roadster, the world\’s first fully electric sports car. The first Roadster was delivered to Musk in February 2008.

The car’s base price was set at $109\,000 as Tesla sought to emulate the life cycle of technology products by coming to market with an expensive, high-end product before opening up to a larger market by lowering the prices of subsequent models.

The Roadster was the first car to use lithium-ion batteries and the development caused shockwaves in the car industry.

General Motors’ vice-chairman at the time\, Robert Lutz\, told the New Yorker that\, until then\, the rest of the industry believed lithium\-ion technology was still 10 years away.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/roadster.jpg'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2008', title: 'Darkest hour', content: 'Tesla\’s darkest time came in 2008 when it was forced lay off staff and parted ways with the then chief executive\, Ze\'ev Drori.

The chairman\, Musk\, stepped into the chief executive’s role. The job cuts came after Tesla was forced to delay the Roadster\’s release because of problems with the transmission. Musk reportedly attributed the job cuts to the company having too high a burn rate \(the rate at which a startup spends its capital\).

Tesla turned around its perilous finances in December when it raised a fifth round of funding worth \$40m.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/fired.jpg'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2010', title: 'Going public', content: 'After an 18\-month build up\, Tesla Motors launched on the Nasdaq stock market on 29 June. The initial public offering raised \$226m for the company. The flotation was a welcome boost for America\’s flagging car industry\, which had been bailed out by the US government. Tesla was the first American car manufacturer to go public since Ford in 1956.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/logo.png'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2011', title: 'Reinventing the car', content: 'On 13 April\, Tesla proclaimed it had reinvented the car buying process when it opened a concept retail store in the Santana Row retail district of San Jose\, California.

The move was revealed ahead of the introduction of its second car\, the Model S\, which was positioned as the world\’s first premium electric sedan. The Model S base price was \$57,400 and was the stepping stone to the affordable Model 3.

The new store introduced an interactive experience that enabled potential customers to explore Tesla\’s technology\, learn about owning an electric car and configure their car in a design studio.

The Tesla store also employed \‘mobile service rangers\’\, who travel to customers\’ homes to perform annual inspections\, firmware upgrades and other services.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/mod3.jpg'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2013', title: 'First profit', content: 'In May\, Tesla enjoyed its first profitable quarter. In this landmark year\, the company also began to expand overseas. On 7 August\, it delivered its first Model S to a retail customer in Europe and\, later in the month\, it opened an assembly plant in Tilburg\, Netherlands.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/mods.jpg'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2014', title: 'Patent free', content: 'In this year\, Tesla open sourced its patents to advance sustainable transport. The move generated widespread positive publicity and reinforced Musk\’s reputation as a champion of the environment and human progress.

In a blog post, Musk said\: \“Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who\, in good faith\, wants to use our technology.

\“When I started out with my first company\, Zip2\, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago but\, too often these days\, they serve merely to stifle progress\, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession\, rather than the actual inventors.\”

2014 was also the year when Tesla won the moral victory in its long-running legal battle with the car dealership sector\, which claims Tesla\’s direct sales model is uncompetitive.

The Federal Trade Commission supported Tesla\’s direct sales model\, which it compared to other advances that have improved the way people shop.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/patent.jpg'] }, { type: 'blog_post', date: '2016', title: 'Affordable price', content: 'On 1 April\, Tesla unveiled its highly anticipated Model 3\, which will have a base price of \$35,000. The car will be Tesla\’s first widely affordable model and will go into production in late 2017.', images: ['//offlineHBPL.hbpl.co.uk/news/OMC/richedit/moneys.jpg'] } ]; timeline = new Timeline($('#timeline'), timeline_data); timeline.setOptions({ animation: true, lightbox: true, columnMode: 'center', order: 'asc', separator: 'year', first_separator: false, dateFormat: 'YYYY', responsive_width: 800 }); timeline.display(); }); // ]]>

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content