Content Marketing

What Do Tesla and Apple Have in Common? A Story

The way Nicolas Roope sees it, a brand is only as strong as its story.

Speaking at Percolate’s “Transition” conference, the founder and ECD of the London-based digital agency Poke explained that companies “without a grasp of their truth” are unsustainable in today’s world, where social and mobile are king.

Take Tesla, for instance. The story “just feels like it’s baked right into the core,” Roope said. By creating the first high-performance sports car to run on a battery, the company’s “given us a product that reconciles our desire to be good consumers of energy but also our desires to express ourselves as successful and manly.” In other words, they’ve “given us hope in the future.”

Journalists migrate to content marketing

That story is also what inspired journalist Hamish McKenzie to leave Pando for Tesla, as McKenzie wrote on Medium: “I would not be leaving Pando, or journalism, for any old reason. Elon Musk, a man for whom I have enormous respect and admiration, offered me a role as a writer at Tesla Motors, to tell stories about the company, the car, and the cause: catalyzing an electric car revolution that will help wean the world off fossil fuels.”

Contrast this with Chevrolet, maker of the Volt. According to the car’s site, owners who regularly charge their hybrid vehicle average 900 miles between trips to the gas station. But, as Roope noted, Chevrolet is also the maker behind the Suburban. “And they can’t reconcile the two. There’s still so much conflict just within the business it feels, and within their identity, to be able to make this a great success.”

It’s a lesson Roope first put into play when in 2002 he started constructing retro-inspired handpieces for cell phones and selling them on eBay. From there, Pokia—now known as Hulger—was born.

Within just a few short years, the startup tapped into a market that ultimately stretched across some 50 countries. The reason, Roope said, goes back to the fact that “we weren’t dealing with marketing, we were dealing with the story, with the core.” With every handpiece, Roope was staging a rebellion against the phone makers of the world, all of whom were locked in an arms race to produce the smallest gadget with the most features.

Years later, Roope once again responded to a shift in technology with a product that played into his background as a fine artist. Plumen debuted in 2010, and with it the world’s first low-energy lightbulb.

“Isn’t it strange that the bulb, an object so synonymous with ideas, is almost entirely absent of imagination,” the press release heralding the company’s first bulb read.

As Roope told Contently in an interview, the company had “a mission, which is if we’re in a period of transition, if we’re in a period of change, embrace that change and look for the exciting possibilities that emerge and design around those.”

In doing so, they were finding “a way to create a magical object so people feel like they’re progressing.”

This, Roope said, is what Steve Jobs got, and why Apple is the company it is today.

“Their success isn’t about being a great marketing organization,” he said. “Their success is about single-mindedness and the recognition that their storytelling and marketing is something that’s everywhere. I’m just surprised the commercial world hasn’t extracted the lessons.”

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Image by Petr Krejci
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