Harald Steiner

CEO / European Real Estate Brand Institute



Exploiting a high-profile brand to establish yourself as a thought leader

Elon Musk, the main focus of my blog on brand capitalisation, is a perfect fit for my latest topic.

The news hit just a few days ago:

With an estimated personal fortune of $188 billion, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has overtaken Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is now the richest man on earth.

How can you possibly get your head around such an enormous sum of money??

A quick calculation might help:

To spend $188 billion, a person who lives to the ripe old age of 80 would need to buy one Tesla Model Y ($45,000) every ten minutes from the moment they are born to the moment they shuffle off this mortal coil.  

That is the ridiculous amount of money we are talking about here.

How about some more figures that may, at first glance, be difficult to comprehend?

In terms of automobile sales, Tesla ranks a distant 14th on the global market, with revenues seven to eight times smaller than the industry’s leaders VW and Toyota.

A look at this year’s new registrations reveals that, even in its own electric vehicles segment, Tesla is far behind the market leader.

While the Volkswagen Group has a market share of 33 per cent of the electric car market, Tesla has just 9 per cent. 

Thus, the CEO of a relative dwarf in terms of revenue has just become the richest man in the world. It sounds almost as far-fetched as the owner of a small chain of convenience stores being worth more than the owner of a major supermarket chain.

Further comparisons illustrate the tremendous potential of Tesla:

Tesla’s market capitalisation increased by a factor of eight in the crisis year of 2020. In this respect, a (relatively) small electric car manufacturer is now playing in the big leagues with global corporations like Facebook and, with a current market capitalisation of $627 billion, is one of the top ten companies by market cap in the world.  

Tesla was the only car company to post higher profits in April to June 2020 than in 2019, during the same period that the operating losses of the world’s 17 largest manufacturers rose to almost €11 billion.

Elon Musk recently tweeted: “I am proud. The prophecy is being fulfilled”.

Elon Musk, by the way, has 42 million Twitter followers and serves them an average of 70 tweets per week. In comparison, Helmut Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, has precisely 0 followers. Apparently, he wants to start tweeting in 2021. It’s a start, I guess.

Elon Musk’s almost uncanny success is based on a brand management strategy that operates way beyond the norm.

While other companies spend millions on product advertising, Musk has ditched traditional advertising in favour of the viral dynamics of social networks.

Instead of wasting his time getting lost in the masses at car shows, he stages new product launches at exclusive events in front of specially selected audiences.

When Musk does content marketing, he is essentially employing the techniques of corporate journalism.

He is a one-man show; an eccentric who has been known to take a hit on a joint during a YouTube appearance – a man who plays the social media keyboard like a virtuoso pianist.

The German newspaper Die Zeit recently observed:

“Musk markets himself as one of the 21st century’s truly all-round geniuses, a man who credibly claims to be pursuing an overarching mission to exploit sustainable mobility as a means of creating a new and better world.

His charismatic personality offers certainty in a complex world and strikes a resounding chord in the networked world of globalised media”.

Musk is the archetypical entrepreneur who does everything in his power to communicate a clear brand message, both within his company and to the world at large.

He has married his firm belief in a glorious future to the energy and mobility revolution, two megatrends that affect everyone. AND he has transformed his employees and customers into devoted fans and disciples.

Tesla is the quintessential strong brand; a brand that truly comes into its own in times of crisis.  

With all of its past successes and promise of a better tomorrow, Tesla captures peoples’ imaginations and makes today’s crises seem less dire.

Above all, Musk and Tesla are high profile – internally and externally.

What Tesla is doing in terms of brand work can, despite all the subtle differences, also be applied to the real estate sector.

More than ever before, in times of crisis, it is important keep you head above the parapet and fly the flag.

First you need to be visible, then you need to exploit the right topics to set the agenda.

In periods of uncertainty, real estate brands create trust by providing solutions.

And the issues facing our industry are obvious.

Today and in the future!

Never before has it been more important to focus on topics such as ESG, EMPLOYER BRANDING, i.e. the message of a trustworthy employer, and RESILIENCE, i.e. stability coupled with flexibility and innovative strength.

That’s one of the reasons we’ll be publishing a special study with my friend Professor Carsten Baumgarth on the topic of “RESILIENCE” in Q2 2021.

Corporate brands that take a lead on these topics, and who invest in these topics today, will establish themselves as thought leaders and reap the rewards for years to come!

The gains they make in terms of credibility and trustworthiness will secure valuable competitive advantages and increased turnover in the long term.

Brands that respond to the crisis by retreating into their shells will find it hard to catch up to their visionary competitors once the crisis has receded.

Unfortunately, many large real estate groups opportunity have failed to make the most of the current crisis. Their lack of visibility could well do long-term damage to their brand images, if this is not already the case today.

I will be able to reveal the precise impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Europe’s leading real estate brands in May, when we publish the latest data from the REAL ESTATE BRAND VALUE STUDY 2021.

But for now, the question of which communication channels to use in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic pretty much answers itself.

With live events off the agenda for the foreseeable future, brands need to establish a presence using the best tools that are currently available.

The magic words are cross-media content marketing!

This approach enables you to serve the right content to the right target groups to build maximum awareness of your products and services.

Based on numerous studies, as well as common sense, it bears repeating: “In times of uncertainty, such as a global pandemic, strong brands engender trust and provide their customers with dependable points of reference”.

This trust is built on authentic content marketing at every single stage of the customer journey.  

Establishing trust is nothing short of the best investment you can make right now for the post-crisis period.

You need to establish yourself as a thought leader and give people, i.e. your target groups, a clear vision of a brighter future with your brand at its centre.

With this in mind – continue to nurture your most important asset – your brand

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