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Elon Musk’s politics play to potential EV buyers in red states

Mario Natarelli, managing partner of the MBLM marketing group, doesn’t see Musk’s political shift and controversial Twitter posts as an attempt to shift from “blue” liberal customers to “red” conservative shoppers.

“I don’t buy the argument that Musk is trying to pivot to red customers,” Natarelli said. “To think that he’s doing it on purpose seems really shortsighted.”

Many brands seen as blue, such as Apple, or red, such as Walmart, are able to attract broad swaths of the American political landscape by focusing on their brand strengths, Natarelli said.

MBLM publishes an annual brand intimacy report that ranked Tesla as the top automaker last year. Natarelli expects Tesla to fall in the 2023 rankings when they come out later this year. Last year, Disney topped MBLM’s overall brand intimacy rankings, followed by Tesla and Apple.

Natarelli is also the co-author of the book, Brand Intimacy, a New Marketing Paradigm.

Tesla remains a hugely positive brand story, Natarelli said, with great products, a clear vision for the future and talented executives. But Musk is stepping on that message by wading into political punditry.

“People’s identity and the automotive brands they choose to drive are heavily aligned,” Natarelli said. “It’s a huge statement of who you are, what you like for many people.”

Tesla is leaving behind fans who like the product but are now asking themselves, “Why would I contribute to something that’s toxic?” Natarelli said.

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