Less than 24 hours ago, Elon Musk revealed the most anticipated car in memory: the Model 3. Already, almost 200,000 people have placed a $1,000 reservation on a car that won’t be built until late next year.
Why? The $35,000 Model 3 puts an elegant electric vehicle (EV) within reach of the masses, and that’s big news. Prior Tesla models, while highly desirable, cost upwards of $70,000. This release makes EVs real.
But this isn’t a posting about a new car, as exciting as it is. This is a critique of the reveal presentation.
I watched the live reveal online with great interest. This is the kind of event I often consult on. I know what goes into the theatrical and creative decisions involved, and I wanted to see just how they’d do it: What kind of special effects would be used? How would the reveal be staged?
But in the end, it wasn’t the lighting or camera moves that impressed me most.
What I noticed was the message strategy.
Musk began not by talking about a car, but by reminding the audience of the “why” of electric vehicles. He didn’t go small; he spoke of changing the world. Of saving lives. Of shifting to “sustainable transport” so we can continue to enjoy life on planet Earth.
“It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport,” Musk said. “This is really important for the future of the world.”
Next, rather than shifting directly to cars, he hit a perfect second note: he talked about the company strategy, establishing credibility for this new car and belief that Tesla can deliver by reminding the audience of what the company has already accomplished. He let the audience in on what he called “the super secret strategy.”
From a structural standpoint, in order to persuade, Musk had employed what the Greeks called logos, pathos and ethos: logic, emotion, and a sense of shared values. He started with why. He connected with us and brought us into Tesla’s plans.
By the time he revealed the Model 3, it almost didn’t matter what was under that shimmering white cloth. Unless it was truly ugly, this car was going to win.
Musk isn’t a great presenter, but he is authentic. And he and his people structured a powerful, effective message.