Marketing with a Flamethrower

Jun 27, 2018

When introducing a product or announcing a big new idea, most companies opt for a press release. Why not use a flamethrower instead?

That’s exactly what Elon Musk recently did to build some buzz for his latest initiative, The Boring Company.

The Boring Company sold both flamethrowers (technically they’re called Not-A-Flamethrower to avoid customs complications) and The Boring Company Dad Hats. But Musk and The Boring Company aren’t really in the business of hats and flamethrowers or all the creative ways they can be used. They were just a media-worthy way of generating some cash for the company’s real focus – Hyperloop and Loop.

Hyperloop and Loop are high-speed underground public transportation systems intended for LA, Chicago and the East Coast. Hyperloop is a faster system in which passengers will be transported in autonomous electric pods traveling at 600+ miles per hour in a pressurized cabin. Loop passengers will be transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour.

Profits from flamethrower and hat sales went toward the tube technology, essentially making it the coolest crowdfunding campaign ever. The Boring Company only offered 50,000 hats at $20 each and 20,000 flamethrowers at $500 a pop. Naturally, with limited stock, both products sold out in four days, creating an exclusive group of owners and excess demand.

Because of the way Musk and company structured the sales, lots of people are talking about Loop and Hyperloop along with the flamethrowers. Plus, selling flamethrowers offers instant branding for The Boring Company (in the same way selling a $100 cheesesteak can help brand a restaurant). Musk wants to make crazy ideas a reality and is having fun doing it.

Long Story Short: The purpose of a product is usually to make a profit. When you sell more, you make more to sell. But products and profits can be utilized in other ways, too. Don’t overlook the power of a product to generate buzz, and funding, for a larger undertaking.

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Louise Howorth.

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