The Tesla brand: a look under the hood

Brands are often about more than meets the eye. A brand is a complex system that gives meaning to a product or service and thus creates perceived added value for customers. This system must be consistent and coherent in order to appear trustworthy and recognizable.

Well-established brands are intuitive, clear and convincing for newcomers and long-standing customers alike. But behind this apparent simplicity lies a complex structure.

Creating a strong brand requires more than just good design and meaningful slogans, bright colors and original fonts. Branding is an orderly process of research, design, testing and continuous optimization. Michael Eisner, who was CEO of Disney from 1984 to 2005, said: “A brand is a living thing – and it is enriched or undermined by many small gestures over time.”

A strong brand is based on solid foundations and interlocking layers of principles, elements and expressions.

The systematic approach to branding
Modern marketers are great at creating and distributing content, using short-form content and small moments to enrich the customer journey. But the true value of a brand and its greatest appeal are created on another level.

With a systematic approach, we can design or redesign brands by visualizing all the connections between the values of a product or service and the customers. In this way, we build brands that are better aligned with each other and better connected to existing and new customers both functionally and emotionally.

The Tesla brand in detail
At its core, the Tesla brand draws its strength from the concepts of disruptive innovation, minimalist luxury, futuristic technology and performance. All these “dots” connect in our minds and create a fitting image that gives the brand great appeal.

A Tesla owner feels special because he knows exactly what the brand stands for. The connections that make up the brand are perfectly aligned.

A brand can be described as an invisible “constellation” of dots that form the brand fabric. Without this constellation, brands would be empty shells that have no connection to their customers. Through these connections, brands can better communicate with their customers and create lasting value and meaning.

Brand expression: How a brand appears
A brand expression describes the way in which the brand communicates to the world. These are visible levels such as social media channels, marketing content, websites, videos and more. Modern technologies and trends emphasize the multiplication of brand expressions and the automation of their production. More touchpoints and channels make brand expressions more powerful and personalized, bringing the experience closer to the customer.

However, if the brand expression is not connected and coordinated with the underlying levels of the brand, it remains ineffective. The Tesla website is an example of a successful implementation: it is elegant, dynamic, innovative and at the same time easy to use. The design exudes minimalism, performance and innovation, which is in line with the brand’s philosophy.

Brand qualities: The inconspicuous power of the brand
The brand qualities represent the principles that define the brand. They form a set of rules and guidelines that are linked to each other and to the other levels. Brand qualities can be divided into creative, narrative and behavioral elements.

Creative elements
The creative elements focus on the visual, auditory and sensory identity of the brand. Auditory identity is often overlooked but can play a major role, such as a brand name that is sonically associated with the product.

Narrative elements
The narrative level comprises the tone of voice and the narrative style of the brand. It is often underestimated, although it is an effective way to stand out in a highly competitive environment. The tone of voice of a brand like Tesla speaks for progress, innovation and technological revolution.

Brand book
A brand book that summarizes the creative, narrative and behavioral principles is a key document that designers, copywriters and social media managers use as a guide.

Brand pillars: The foundation of a brand
The brand pillars are the fundamental level and should be at the beginning of the branding process. They consist of the history, the value and the historical and cultural context of the brand.

  1. Vision
    Tesla’s vision is to shape the future and close the technological gap between today and tomorrow. This vision consists of developing groundbreaking innovations.

  2. Context
    The context – political, economic, social or environmental – is crucial to understanding how a brand connects with its customers. Tesla is perfectly positioned at a time of growing environmental concerns and technological upheaval, when demand for innovation is on the rise.

  3. Personality
    Tesla draws his inspiration from the inventor Nikola Tesla. The brand personality is closely linked to Elon Musk and his vision.

  4. Values

  • Functional: Tesla’s functional value lies in offering the most innovative driving experience possible.
  • Emotional: Tesla’s emotional value conveys a sense of future orientation and belonging.

The Tesla brand is based on a solid foundation of values, concepts and principles that run through all layers of the brand. From the vision to the brand qualities to the brand expression, the points are perfectly aligned and form an unmistakable constellation that is immediately recognizable and attractive to customers.

By understanding this structure, we can better design and refine brands to further strengthen the connection between customers and products. A successful brand like Tesla conveys a clear value and manages to communicate its meaning on an emotional and functional level.