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Who Does This?

Who straps a $100,000 car onto a rocket and sends it into space? A genius, that’s who. Or, to be more precise, a marketing genius. In one shot Elon Musk took branding to a whole new level, literally.

Branding is “the perception a consumer has when they hear or think of your company name, service or product.” If you mention space or space travel to anyone under 30 they’ll talk about Elon Musk, SpaceX, and a car traveling to Mars. If you speak with anyone over 50 they’ll talk about NASA, Neil Armstrong, and the moon landing. The perception of space travel has changed.

It’s not just the perception that has changed. Space and space travel are now branded with the Tesla and SpaceX logos. And, with his latest feat, marketing genius Elon Musk has media outlets all over the world talking about his two biggest companies.

The launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, with the Tesla Roadster in its nose cone, was live streamed over the Internet. Every major news outlet carried the event along with interviews of Musk after the successful launch.

On numerous YouTube channels, you can watch as the cherry red convertible Tesla Roadster, complete with its “Starman” passenger clad in a SpaceX designed pressure spacesuit, orbits the earth on its way to Mars.

Of course, the Internet has helped to spread the “news” with a series of memes that are hilarious. My favorite was from @AngelList on Twitter. It reads, “California Man Finally Finds Way to Beat Traffic.”

The best part of this marketing campaign is that it doesn’t feel like a marketing campaign. This is due, in large part, to Musk’s authenticity. He’s real. People can relate to him.

  • He’s a gamer. His favorite video game is Overwatch.
  • He’s a dad. He posts pictures and videos of his children’s birthday parties.
  • He interacts with his followers on social media. He tweets like he’s talking with his friends, not followers.
  • He is current with pop culture. He watches Rick & MortySouth Park, and The Simpsons.

Musk is reaching consumers on a very personal level. For example, Falcon, the family of multi-use rockets developed and operated by SpaceX, is named after the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame.

Musk also pays homage to Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,by placing a plaque on the dashboard of his cherry-red Tesla Roadster that reads, “Don’t Panic.” And in a Twitter discussion with fans, Musk revealed that there’s a towel and a copy of the book in the glove compartment.

These are just a few of the many ways Musk relates to the “common man.” He includes references to the rock music mockumentary Spinal Tap, the movie Space Balls, and the comedy group Monty Python in many of his products.

All of these actions make Musk a typical guy with whom you can relate. I can’t think of any other billionaire that seems so approachable.

All of us involved in marketing can learn from Elon Musk.

  • Be authentic.
  • Be original.
  • Be relatable.
  • Take risks.
  • Set your sites high.
  • Dream big.

Although you will probably never put your product into outer space the way Elon Musk has, if you follow the tenets above you will find success.

Enjoy the journey! And, every once and a while, climb into your car, put the windows and top down, casually rest your arm on the door, crank up David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the radio, and go for a drive.