February 09, 2018

An amazing moment in space and a genius advertisement: Yes, Elon Musk's ultra-cool cherry red Tesla convertible Roadster floating in orbit.
It’s an out-of-this world stunt that will stick for hundreds of millions of years (if all goes according to plan), and literally soar above the competition. This was no Super Bowl ad for a Dodge Ram truck. We don't expect Ford or Toyota to be launching vehicles into space anytime soon.
Tesla's splashy, iconic moment was coordinated by none other than SpaceX visionary — and Tesla CEO — billionaire Elon Musk.
On Tuesday, the Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off Earth from Cape Canaveral with some interesting cargo: a Starman mannequin wearing a SpaceX suit, sitting behind the wheel of a red Tesla Roadster.
Of course, the mission for Falcon Heavy wasn't to promote a car, but including a Roadster with Starman, and streaming the view from space certainly helped the Tesla brand.
"Elon Musk and SpaceX are a part of Tesla brand equity the same way Jeff Bezos is part of (the) Amazon brand," said branding consultant Allen Adamson. "No other car company can put a car into space."
In an Instagram post, Musk explained test flights often include mass simulators involving concrete or steel blocks. Instead, Musk opted for Starman in a Roadster, playing David Bowie's Space Oddity.
"That seemed extremely boring," said Musk of settling for concrete or steel blocks. "Of course, anything boring is terrible."
SpaceX streamed Starman live on YouTube. As of Friday, the video has more than 12 million views.
While brand awareness for Tesla is high among "affluent, environmentally-concerned luxury car buyers," Adamson said, Musk continues to burn through money attempting to mass produce the vehicles. For the fourth quarter, Tesla reported a net loss of $675 million, up from $121 million a year ago. For 2017, Tesla had a net loss approaching $2 billion.
During Tesla's fourth quarter earnings call Wednesday, Musk said he is "cautiously optimistic" the company will be profitable sometime this year.
As AdWeek points out, Tesla has a reputation for shunning traditional advertising. AdWeek reports Tesla often focuses on unconventional forms of advertising, such as a contest where fans could make and share their own Tesla ads. The report also notes the Roadster on board the rocket is Musk's own car.
Adamson said the company tends to lean toward social media and word of mouth for promotion. Tesla could not be reached for comment on whether this was part of a marketing ploy.
The move by Musk is similar to how brands played off the popularity of the U.S. space program in the 1960s, notes Adamson. For example, astronaut John Glenn helped propel awareness of the popular powdered drink Tang. DuPont also received a bump when the space program started using its material, Teflon, on heat shields and space suits.
Musk shooting a Roadster into orbit adds to the perception of Tesla as a unique car brand. "Other car companies have trouble installing a navigation system than can connect to your phone," Adamson said. "Tesla and Elon can send their brand to Mars."
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