Has anybody seen my virtual car?

Written by: Sean Birk

I recently bought a Tesla.

Ok, to be fair, I made an impulsive hit on my credit card with a down payment on a Model 3. In fact, that’s not even accurate. The money I paid in a frenzied state, instantly defining me as either “Early Adopter” or “Elon Musk Fanboy”, was just to secure a spot in the queue. Ridiculous. But I did it. And it made me happy.

So why did I do it?

To justify my decision, I can tell you all sorts of things about my passion for cars, technology, saving the planet and clever South Africans. But that would imply that I was in control of my behaviour that night. That I had a choice. The truth is, a brilliant marketing strategy led me to a point where I was too brand loyal and powerless to resist the opportunity to give Tesla my money.

Turns out, it was the Hershey’s Kiss.

Let me explain. Tesla’s marketing strategy is cleverly intertwined with its distribution strategy and human psychology. As a graph, the plan looks a bit like a Hershey’s Kiss.

In the beginning, Tesla launched the very sexy, very unavailable Tesla Roadster. Basically an electric Lotus sports car, the Roadster was available in tiny numbers for a huge price. It created a lot of buzz. And everybody craves what they can’t have, right?

Then came the Model S, a luxury car that was more widely available due to Tesla’s newly created store network. The quality and performance of the Model S (it has a “Ludicrous Speed” mode) made Tesla a household name – even if it was too pricey for most households. And commoners like me were even allowed a free taste at local shopping malls. One test drive and I was instantly hooked.

Now with the Model 3 launch, we’re into the big, delicious bulge with the creamy centre: a reasonably-priced mass market car with all the qualities its big brothers. How could I possibly resist?

They’re all doing it, so why can’t I?

Besides good looks, charisma and heaps of talent, I don’t have much in common with Hollywood celebrities. But now, thanks to the Model 3, I can say I have the same taste in luxury automobiles as some of the coolest people on the planet – albeit at a more reasonable price. I’d like to say I’m above being influenced by celebrity endorsement, but I’m not. And neither are you. Especially when the list includes (take a breath): Morgan Freeman, Tony Hawk, Cameron Diaz, Ben Affleck, Laurence Fishburne, Seth Green, Metallica’s James Hetfield, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak, Angelina Jolie AND Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Will.i.am, Jay Leno, Matt Damon and Leonardo di Caprio. Not to mention Superheroes the Hulk, Batman and Knight Hawk. And of course, my real-life hero – Elon Musk himself.

It’s not just about the car.

Elon Musk, a.k.a. the World’s Raddest Man*, is solving a much bigger problem here. As CTO of Solar City, he’s the brains behind America’s no. 1 full-service solar energy supplier. With the Gigafactory, he’s making renewable energy storage in batteries more affordable than ever. Oh, and he’s building re-usable rockets to go to Mars. I believe these are all great things. He’s saving the world and inventing the future! So, buying one of these cars makes me part of history. Or so I told my wife.

Can I have my car now?

The online launch of the Tesla’s Model 3 was an Apple iPhone moment. In fact, it superseded Apple in two ways. Firstly, the number of paid-up deposits like mine reached 232,000 within 24 hours of the launch. That’s some kind of record. Those orders are now close to the half a million mark. And they haven’t made one single ad, ever. I doubt Elon Musk was surprised by the numbers, but he was typically humble about the results:

Secondly, and more amazingly, there’s no car. It’s only due in late 2017… at the earliest. Hopefully. And for some reason, I don’t mind. In fact, I’m rather excited – in case you couldn’t tell.