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Opinion: How PR can drive the zaniest of ideas

If you read the news at all, it’s hard not to be aware of Elon Musk’s latest endeavours.

His various companies have started work on digging giant tunnels to alleviate traffic conditions in urban areas, developed rockets that can land on ships, made reasonable estimates that humans will be on Mars in the next decade or so, pre­sold tens of thousands of new Tesla models, the list goes on.

Ol’ Musky – as the internet has dubbed him – has been quite the prolific entrepreneur, and while none of his companies are big moneymakers, he still manages to keep investors and consumers excited at every turn.

People are even lining up to spend money on things that don’t exist yet.

Digging tunnels under Los Angeles sounds ridiculous on paper, given current mindsets, but all the geniuses at The Boring Company asked: “why not?” Similar scenario with electric luxury cars, rockets that can land and roof panels with solar built in – why not?

And yes, their economic models are brilliant, with small savings at every turn adding up, simply put, and yes, the engineering is undoubtedly highly impressive.

But in actuality, a lot of these moonshot companies would probably have failed if not for one very important factor – marketing. Musk and his PR and marketing teams are masters of selling ideas, and making the impossible sound exciting. And everything is about what it feels like, not just what the product can do.

For example, driving a Tesla is an amazing experience – regardless of the fact it’s an electric vehicle, and it looks fantastic.
Similarly, the new space suit SpaceX has been designed (presumably at great cost) to be fully functional, of course, but it’s also very sleek. Honestly, drop the helmet and I’d order one as winter wear. Everything these companies make just feels right.

And that irrational love for a brand goes beyond building quality and far into the territory of cult­like reverence that ensures a future for innovative companies. And as a cherry on top, each of these companies has a heartfelt mission at its centre, making them not only the stylish choice, but the ethically sound choice.

If we ever needed further proof that marketing and PR can make or break a company, this is it.

This editor note appeared in the Marketing Magazine Hong Kong September issue.