SYDNEY: Tesla operates a "very slim" marketing budget and they "don't spend a cent" on paid media, according to a senior marketing executive at the company,.

"It's all about being scrappy," said Heath Walker, senior marketing and communications manager for Tesla in Australia and New Zealand at the Mumbrella360 conference recently.

"That doesn't mean we run things poorly, it means that we get the most out of what we can do as a company," he added. (For more details read Warc's exclusive report: Tesla builds brand awareness in Australia with zero paid media.)

"It's not a dead zero (marketing budget), but in terms of paid media, we don't spend a cent. Social media is all organic," he said.

The high-end electric car manufacturer has become a global zeitgeist in recent years. But according to Walker, they've had to get creative with experiential activation, brand partnerships, and earned media.

Tesla's first priority has been rethinking the traditional showroom experience to move away from the 'hard sell'.

"We want people to come in, discover the vehicles, and be educated," Walker explained. "The worst thing we can do, as a company that doesn't do any paid advertising or sponsorship, is have someone buy a car and have a terrible experience,".

Tesla is also reaching out to big brands, including Qantas, to build its brand awareness.

"There is no monetary exchange involved in this, it's purely working with another company to ensure that we deliver on their objectives and we give back to either our (Tesla car) owners, or our ultimate goal, which is our (sustainability) mission," he said.

The high profile of Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also generated extensive free PR for the company – a fact which Walker acknowledged has allowed Tesla to become widely recognised, despite the lack of paid media.

"The exposure that Elon provides the company through media helps us not have to pay for advertising, so from a marketing standpoint, it's really good - from a media standpoint, it's a huge boon," he said.

"We're in a space where our CEO is talking directly to the customers. And I think it's a trend that you'll start to see creeping across other major companies around the world."

Data sourced from WARC