Did Tesla Break That Cybertruck Window on Purpose?
We might never find out, but there is a case for guerrilla marketing here
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week or so, you will have come across the news story regarding Tesla’s latest vehicle, the Cybertruck.
The event was announced to much fanfare and a lot of media attention was devoted to it. However, unless you’re a Tesla aficionado or shareholder, or an Elon superfan, the event may have passed you by.
I am a shareholder, and I only realised the event was happening a few hours before it did! However, I certainly knew about it afterwards.
Let’s just say things didn’t go according to plan.
During the demonstration of the Cybertruck, which has a variety of features, one of which is armoured glass impenetrable to bullets, Musk brought out designer Franz von Holzhausen to demonstrate the strength of the windows.
His brief was to throw a small steel ball at the window from a short distance. The expectation, given Musk’s comments, was that the ball would bounce off the window without leaving so much as a scratch.
Instead, the ball left the window cracked. As if one demonstration was not enough, Musk instructed Franz to throw the ball against the rear window, too, with similar results.
On the surface, it appeared to be a PR disaster for Tesla. The unveiling of their new vehicle in the lucrative pickup truck market and a demonstration of a unique selling point of the truck backfires.
Or did it?
I have read a few pieces from people who claim that this might have been a piece of guerrilla marketing. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, guerrilla marketing refers to a strategy in which a company uses surprise or unconventional marketing methods to promote their product.
The incident may have been unintentional or premeditated — we’ll likely never know — but there is a case to state it was a clever piece of guerrilla marketing. With Musk stating 200,000 orders have been placed already for the Cybertruck, it may have been a stroke of genius.
Elon Musk is no stranger to controversy. This is the man who smoked marijuana live on the Joe Rogan podcast, which resulted in the value of Tesla shares dropping by 6%.
He also became engaged in a row with Vernon Unsworth, the diver who helped rescue a team of young football players trapped in a cave in Thailand. Musk is not your ordinary CEO.
This is what makes the circumstances surrounding the Cybertruck unveiling all the more intriguing. If there is anyone who would dream up an unusual marketing angle for their product, it’s Musk.
Maybe this was the plan, maybe it wasn’t. Videos released after the event show Franz throwing steel balls at the window without any damage.
It’s obvious this demonstration was intended to be part of the event. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. They wouldn’t practise throwing balls against the window if that wasn’t the case.
It looks like these previous throws may have damaged the windows which caused the windows to crack. This could have been intentional, or it could have been an accident.
Musk has said that a demonstration showing the strength of the exoskeleton by hitting a sledgehammer against it caused the base of the glass in the windows to crack, which resulted in the balls cracking the glass instead of bouncing off it.
Either way, there’s no doubt the so-called mishap has been a boon for Tesla. The story was covered by almost every news outlet the following morning. Regardless of the negative tone of the pieces, the publicity gained from the incident will have outweighed the publicity had it gone according to plan.
The key takeaway from this is that sometimes a counterintuitive approach to marketing is the best one to take. Tesla was promoting a new product, but outside its hardcore base of fans and industry experts, it’s unlikely it would have registered with many.
The glass incident made sure that the demonstration became big news, propelling Tesla and its new product into the consciousness of those who may be unaware of the company.
While guerrilla marketing is not the best strategy to use all of the time, there are times when it’s warranted. If you’re looking to break into a saturated industry, deviating from the norm is a surefire way to get noticed.
Ironically, a brilliant example of guerrilla marketing involves glass that didn’t break. 3M demonstrated the strength of its security glass in 2005, when it placed $3 million worth of banknotes behind the glass.
Anybody who broke the glass was allowed to keep the money. Nobody did. The advert was a brilliant demonstration of the glass's strength and a fantastic marketing ploy by 3M.
It later turned out there was only $500 behind the glass and the rest was fake, but it was a clever marketing stunt nonetheless.
Tesla’s event may have backfired somewhat, but it got people talking about their product. Due to its unusual design, they would have been intrigued to find out more.
I know I was.
Guerrilla marketing should be a tool in your arsenal of marketing techniques. Whether you want to demonstrate the strength of your product or draw more attention to it, sometimes doing things differently is the best way to stand out in a crowded market.