It's no secret that I am passionate about incentives--I have made them my business for most of my career. Those who know me also know that I love my Tesla. Not only for the driving experience it provides, but also for what the company represents in cleaner driving, and its exceptional customer service.
Recently, Tesla announced a new social media incentive program for owners to encourage their peers to buy a Tesla. The incentive? Each party gets a $1,000 rebate along with other special perks. The program will apply only to purchases of the Model S vehicle, although 10 successful referrals will get the referring party the right to purchase a special "founder series" Model X.
The program is an interesting one. For starters, Tesla relies very little on traditional tactics like advertising to market its vehicles. As such, they bank on word of mouth from their current customers. Hence, it's critical to get owners out there evangelizing and talking about their Tesla experience. This program leverages incentives to entice them to do exactly that.
At first glance, this may not seem compelling to the everyday person--incenting high-end car buyers with a nominal reward to entice their inner circle to consider a Tesla. But that would be missing the point. Elon Musk is a master at digital disruption, and this is another example of him bringing together two powerful forces in buying trends--word of mouth and social media recommendations--to further sales and brand awareness.
In addition, social media has proven itself to be a powerful force when it comes to societal awareness and even change. Tesla continues to be committed to its quest in educating the automotive community and general public on the need to preserve the environment by encouraging less gasoline-fueled cars on the road. So much so that the company recently open-sourced its patents and decreed that the company "will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology." The company stated it realizes its "true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world's factories every day."
This leads me back to Tesla's social incentive program. While 10 successful referrals mean the right to purchase a Tesla Model X, it also means 10 additional plug-in Model S vehicles on the road, thus likely doing away with an old gas-guzzling vehicle.
This is not the first time incentives have been used to inspire social change. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the XPrize Foundation, at our annual user conference. During that conversation, Peter shared how Coca-Cola India is underwriting an XPrize with the goal of taking water out of the air to make it drinkable. With the water shortage becoming increasingly desperate in areas like my home state of California, this is a critical quest.
While I have personally witnessed time and time again how incentives can inspire performance and engage people in the workplace, it is amazing to see the impact transformative power incentives can have on society at large.
I applaud Musk for his efforts in using the power of incentives to not only help raise Tesla's profile ... but also adding more environmentally-friendly vehicles to the roads.