Tesla is leading U.S. electric vehicle sales, striding forward in Europe and China, and not spending any real money on advertising.

How is that done? Automotive News did a think piece exploring the question.

Word-of-mouth referrals and free media coverage are getting the word out on the electric carmaker, and it led to over 500,000 pre-orders taken so far on the Model 3.

CEO Elon Musk sloughed it off this week during the second quarter earnings call. Tesla doesn’t do the typical promotions that major automakers spend billions on. It’s more of a hands-on experience; and those wanting a Model 3 will need to get on the wait list, he said.

“We’re not promoting the car,” he said. “If you go to our stores, we don’t even want to talk about it, really, because we want to talk about the thing that we can supply. If somebody orders a Model 3 now, it’s probably late next-year before they get it.”

Automakers are spending big bucks on things like Superbowl ads, local TV station spots, radio ads, print ads, internet banner ads, and promotional videos streaming on websites. There’s also sponsorship of sporting and entertainment events.

Media research firm Kantar reported that Nissan spent $4.3 million last year marketing the all-electric Leaf. General Motors spent a good chunk of it – $3.7 million in the first quarter of this year promoting the newly launched Chevy Bolt battery electric car.

Tesla won’t have to spend any real money on advertising for now – not until the first wave of Model 3 owners are satisfied.

“I don’t expect that Tesla will have to spend a dime on advertising anytime soon,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for AutoTrader. “It will take Tesla a good amount of time to fulfill those orders even if they are successful with their ambitious launch plan. Tesla, indeed, has built a strong brand that requires little or no promotion for now. Tesla has taken on a life of its own.”

The closest that Tesla has ever gotten to an ad campaign has taken the form of the Tesla Project Loveday contest.

Bria Loveday, the 10-year-old daughter of auto journalist Eric Loveday of InsideEVs and U.S. News and World Report, mailed a letter to Musk earlier this year. She acknowledged that a lot of Tesla fans had made their own supportive videos streaming on YouTube.

Loveday encouraged the company to set up a video contest. The winners will have paid for their video to be produced and will have them aired by Tesla.

SEE ALSO:  Could One Of These Videos Win the Tesla ‘Loveday’ Ad Contest?

Winners would be featured and shared on Tesla’s social media channels. The Grand Prize Winner would get a free trip to attend a future Tesla product launch event, with travel expenses and accommodations for two people staying two nights being covered.

On July 28, Musk tweeted that Marques Brownlee had won the award.

Already a well known YouTube commentator, Brownlee has about 1 million views on the page, which you can view below. Viewers watch him go shopping and pack goods into the back and finish by using the front space available in a car without an internal combustions engine. He also gets to go into Ludicrous mode to win a race.

Tesla’s marketing success comes from loyal fans and followers who own a Tesla vehicle and preach to the choir; or they’ve test driven a Model S, Model X, or Roadster. They follow Musk on Twitter, watch fan’s videos, visit Tesla stores, schedule test drives, and read as much coverage as they can imagine on social and news media.

Rave reviews also help.

Automotive News cited a Motor Trend review, where driving a Model 3 became a euphoric experience. The reporter thought it seemed like “carving Stunt Road like a Sochi Olympics giant slalomer, micrometering my swipes at the apexes.”

The Model 3 “is so unexpected scalpel-like,” the review continued, “I’m sputtering for adjectives.”

During Wednesday’s earnings call, Musk said that the positive reviews for the Model 3 have been plentiful. After test driving the new car last week, Musk noted that 80 percent of the journalists said they would buy the car themselves.

“This is crazy,” Musk said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Automotive News