Elon Musk. How to Create a Personal Brand and Use It as an Asset

Looking for investments to launch a startup? Want to succeed in business? You could learn a lot from Elon Musk. People say different things about him, but Elon Musk is a serial entrepreneur who surprises and inspires, and the strength of his personal brand has become one of the main assets of his companies. He started as a software engineer and co-founder of Zip2, and today he owns SpaceX, an aerospace company that will probably allow humanity to move to other planets. His personal brand works to build faith in glorious outcome.

Musk is highly active on Twitter, sometimes responds in Russian and often talks about his life values. When Space X launched the world’s heaviest Falcon Heavy booster with a Tesla car on board, posts with the question “How do you like that, Elon Mask” and pictures of strange inventions from the post-Soviet part became viral. “Haha awesome,” he wrote in response to one of them in russian. A slight provocation of a geek (few native english speakers can be witty in Russian) is his signature technique.

Musk tweeted on May 1: “I sell almost all of my physical property. I will not have my own home. ” Indeed, two of his homes in Los Angeles in the prestigious Bel Air district were put up for sale on Zillow a few days later. Always captivating the audience with grandiose projects, Musk is building a spaceship designed for 100 passengers. Musk explained why he decided not to burden himself with real estate on Earth: “Freedom <…> I do not need money. I want to devote myself to Mars and the Earth. Property is pulling me down.”

Developing personal brand is a contemporary long-term trend. Clients choose those with whom a feeling of strong friendship is created: “I know how this person lives. You can trust him. Everything he does is interesting, useful. I invest in his products or services. ” That is, a bright personal brand gives advantages of recognition and loyalty. How Musk does it is interesting because his  brand is very solid, and he uses numerous points of contact with the audience.

The active use of the term “personal brand” began with an article by the American journalist Tom Peters in Fast Company in 1997, and individual brands are actively developing in various fields of business. They belong to people who have reached their heights in their occupation and have managed to make their own image well-known and popular. Examples of an outstanding personal brand include the names of Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferris.

The rules of the game of personal branding are simple. First of all, you need to formulate the main idea, and in order to do this — to understand yourself and determine your area of ​​expertise. In the eyes of the audience, Musk is a visionary and one who makes the impossible. Next is to think over the style (how to speak, listen, write, look) and the presentation form, define your vision (moral principles and values, on the basis of which to formulate opinions). Musk presents himself in the packaging of a workaholic and provocateur, a strange guy and does not avoid contradictions, thereby achieving the effect of openness, for example, a story with his deleted tweets. The last step is to build a personal brand marketing strategy, be elegant in your communications, carefully monitor your words and actions (public relations).

Find your passion, follow your dream and distinguish yourself

Where to start building a personal brand? First of all, evaluate the foundation on which to build it: a person can stand out with his professional or individual skills. If you have earned credibility in your field and want to expand the activity, then you should think about the correct presentation of achievements and the expansion of coverage.

Musk has been fond of computers since childhood and learned to program at the age of nine. At 12, he wrote on BASIC and sold his own video game Blastar, in which you were supposed to destroy aliens’ spacecrafts. While studying at college, Ilon assembled computers for his classmates. “I repaired their computers if they worked poorly or were infected with a virus,” Musk said. “I could solve almost any problem.” His company Zip2 became the first online version of the Yellow Pages with integrated maps, because «everyone should have an opportunity to find the nearest pizzeria and to get a proper explanation how to get there.» In 1999, Compaq Computer bought Zip2 for $ 307 million and it merged with their Altavista search engine.

In general Musk often talks about his career. The formation of the brand was influenced not only by numerous interviews, but also books (“Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Road to the Future” by Ashley Vance) and films. Musk appeared as himself in Iron Man, Machete Kills, Excellence, starred in The Simpsons and in the episode of The Big Bang Theory. These formats give flexibility in presenting yourself and demonstrate different facets of the personality, thereby increasing the feeling of “I know him” among the target audience.

Your personal brand, when built, will be bringing dividends in the future, even if you stop developing it. Your reputation as a good specialist will not vanish.

Use synergy

Elon Musk is a brilliant storyteller. As the founder and CEO of Tesla, he also acts as a spokesperson, often using twitter for announcements. Musk personally broadcasts the principles of the company, talks about the quality of cars and what the company does for consumers. This affects not only buyers, but also investors, strengthening their faith in the company and increasing its value. Through the company, Elon Musk displays his vision of the future, and for Tesla, ideas matter no less than products or financial performance. Thus, according to the principle of synergy, both the personal brand of Mask and the brands of its companies are being strengthened. You can achieve great heights in business if you simultaneously develop a personal brand.

Change and adapt

Darwin once said that it is not the smartest or the strongest that survives, but the one who adapts best to unstable environmental conditions. Today, personal development is the engine of progress, and business projects are a part of you, your continuation and reflection. Many of us do not change much, because it means moving out of our comfort zone and introducing a restless element of uncertainty into our lives. At the same time, the world as a supermarket provides endless choices. Moreover, its logic involves the spraying of desires; a supermarket person cannot organically be a person of one desire.

“If you enter an already established market, then in order to compete with large, deep-rooted companies you need to make a product better than theirs. And even being “a little better” is not enough. Put yourself in the position of a consumer — among other things, you will choose a brand you trust. ” As a dreamer, Elon Musk draws inspiration from innovative ideas in various fields, selects an existing problem and solves it.

For example, most of the world still does not have access to a gigabit Internet connection. Musk came up with the idea of adapting the old idea of satellite Internet, which failed technologically, and called on the best engineers to re-invent it. By the mid-2020s Starlink satellite Internet service will become the largest telecommunications provider if it implements the idea of global broadband Internet from orbit, creating a mesh network that could cover the entire globe.

Or the ambitious project of The Boring company, which must solve the tunneling problem in order to run hyperloop hyper-speed trains on tunnels or to make them super-fast highways.

Concerning the “boring company”, Musk says that this is his hobby taking no more than “2-3 percent” of his time. A funny name that plays with the supposedly boredom of traditional industry (a joke and a contradiction), plus a hint of workaholism plus an element of outrageous with the release of flamethrowers to protect against zombies — and everything adds on the brand image.

All his projects seem to be useful, ambitious and unbelievable at the same time and invented to fundamentally change the paradigm of daily life — this is the message transmitted by Elon Musk in all his communications.

Think creative and look for new ways to sustainable development

Skeptics often claim that his ideas are impossible. As a businessman Musk was included in the list of the most influential people in the world according to Time magazine in 2013, and Richard Branson published an article about him, praising the ability to prove the critics wrong: «If Ilon takes up the task, it will be fulfilled.» “The paradox is that Ilon is working to improve our planet, but at the same time is building a spaceship so that we can leave it. But true vision is binocular, and Ilon is a person who can look at several things at the same time”, Branson wrote.

Already a successful entrepreneur, in 2008, Musk announced that he founded Tesla not to make money. “This means that this is not about accumulating wealth for me personally. I just think that this (the environmental necessity of a new way of operating vehicles) is a very important problem, and it needs to be solved. And if we do not solve it, the future will not be easy for us”. Here is the message “Musk is the savior of mankind”.

Musk formulated his vision for Tesla in a 2016 post:

Design an electric car that is bound to be expensive. Use this money to develop an average electric car. Use this money to create an affordable electric vehicle available for everybody. Create solar roofs with a fully integrated battery. Expand the product line for electric vehicles to cover all major segments. Develop the ability to drive independently, which is 10 times safer than manual. A car makes money when not in use.

This message is about how the original Tesla Roadster appeared and it is nothing but logical, consistent, easy to understand and suggests that its author is not just creative, but is also working on a global issue, sustainable development and cares for the greater good. Archetypes of expert, visionary and dreamer are hereby combined.

Choose a unique brand placement and work on your reputation both offline and online

Recently the billionaire released a batch of women’s shorts from red satin to celebrate his triumph and troll investors who did not believe in the growth of Tesla shares.

Many of the Mask’s jokes are metaironic (a joke wrapped in a joke wrapped in another joke, that is, it is important to know the whole context so that it’s funny), here shorts are a symbol of short positions (“shorts”) and sent to skeptical traders (“shortsellers”), who hope to capitalize on the fall of its shares.

Or a joke about the name for the new Tesla model.

All his jokes instantly scatter on social networks. But to understand the meta-humor, it is critical to understand the context, if you show the meta-ironic picture to my grandfather, then he hardly laughs: as a person out of context, he has no idea why this should be fun.

How do jokes work? Why memes? They demonstrate brand identity, allowing you to personalize the brand’s voice. They are easily accessible, exist on different platforms, although Musk often chooses twitter. Finally, they can be a powerful tool for brands struggling to join or expand their target audience, increasing their engagement, and contributing to a higher level of recall. The rapid growth of technology provides an even larger audience, therefore, a high chance of a joke to become viral.

The power of a brand is not so much associated with logic but with emotions. Read more about Mask jokes, the role of postironia, metairony and memes in our next article.

By Larissa Kostrova