Gravelle Branding / Marketing

Elon Musk – Category Disruptor

There are a handful of people who disrupt a business category so thoroughly it actually creates a new category in the process. They become famous-and rich-for it.

Steve Jobs and Apple. Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Sam Walton and Wal Mart. Phil Knight and Nike. Peter Thiel and PayPal.

Now comes Elon Musk who has intentionally disrupted the travel category through major investments in automotive (Tesla) and space travel (SpaceX), even batteries (Tesla lithium). He disrupted the notion that a technology company had to be in Silicon Valley or California by moving his headquarters to Texas (I give him a giant Yeehaw for that one). Maybe he wants to shake up the idea of having to be a homeowner by claiming he spends the nights with friends.

Now he is taking on content curation and censorship by making a run at Twitter and their sub rosa limitations on who can play and what they say.

The disruption of the automotive business brought about a profound change in two ways. Tesla set the standard for electric cars, plus he proved that such vehicles could be stylish and cool, and certainly not utilitarian and ugly like a Prius. Further, Elon bet that early buyers thought they were joining the Club of Elon and wearing the club livery showing people that they were climate conscious and cool and well to do.

One characteristic of all of these flashy disruptors is that they imagine and create a world where they are the King and try to herd people into it. The brilliant book, The Productive Narcissist outlines the upside and downsides of leaders who are driven to satisfy their vision. How they are hard to work for and can also crash and burn. The ones that succeed are usually the ones with a sound strategic vison and not a Caligula-like fantasy land of pleasing oneself.

The tale of the tape for Mr. Musk is yet to be fully written, but as of now, he seems to have a picture of what he wants. Besides, he’s fun to watch.

As a child his parents were told he might be going deaf because he wasn’t speaking. His mother disagreed. She contended “He goes into his brain and then you just see he is in another world.”