With electric vehicles on the verge of receiving widespread adoption in the coming decades, this
thesis explores cultural distinctions created by electric car companies and their owners. The
findings detail exactly how environmental communication strategies are utilized by two specific
electric vehicle manufacturers—Nissan and Tesla—and how each company’s strategy segments
audiences based on taste, style, and preference. Textual analyses of recent video, billboard, and
social media ads from each company highlight the ways in which Nissan and Tesla are nuanced
and discerning in identifying with their respective target audiences. For both companies,
conspicuous conservation—an appeal to consumers who wish to flaunt their wealth through a
public display of environmental concern—is manifested, but in ways that match their class
demographics. Nissan targets the middle class while Tesla targets the upper middle and upper
classes. Examining these distinctions not only provides insight into early adopters of electric
vehicles but also suggests that advertisers use environmental communication differently based on
From Insane to Ludicrous: Electric Cars, Environmental Communication, and Cultural Distinction.
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