Elon Musk’s appearance on Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg’s “Meme Review,” a popular series on Kjellberg’s channel where he provides commentary on memes, gave Tesla’s CEO a chance to address one of his most important customer bases directly: YouTube.
Musk, with Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland, co-hosted the last third of Kjellberg’s latest episode. Their time was mostly spent reviewing memes that included Musk, including poking fun at his obsession with artificial intelligence and drawing on his love for electric vehicles. Although Musk didn’t plug any of his Tesla vehicles, his appearance on a show hosted by YouTube’s most popular creator helps to make him seem more approachable to people both within the YouTube creator community and their millions of viewers.
Musk’s appearance on PewDiePie comes as analysts have expressed concern about the Model 3’s demand. It seems to be slowing just as Tesla is ramping up production, according to Jeff Schuster, a senior vice president at the forecasting firm LMC Automotive, who told The Associated Press in January that “demand for Tesla’s lower-priced Model 3 has been artificially high.” YouTube creators love Teslas, and they are a market Musk can tap into: people who view Model 3s as a status symbol. Lots of the platform’s top creators — people with more than 10 million subscribers — own Model 3s themselves. By appearing on Kjellberg’s show, Musk keeps up his cred as a sort of influencer himself. It’s something that Roiland asks Musk about in the video, too. Is Musk used to seeing himself in so many memes, or does it still catch him off guard that he’s become synonymous with meme culture?
“These past couple of years, particularly this past year, have been a meme city,” Musk says in the video. “So, I’ve seen a lot of memes.”
Among the Tesla devotees is Jeffree Star, a popular creator and multimillionaire makeup mogul, who did his makeup while relying on Autopilot to drive. David Dobrik, a creator with 10 million subscribers, incorporates his Tesla into his near-daily vlogs. He even buys Teslas for his friends. Jake Paul, one of YouTube’s most popular vloggers, has a Model 3, too. It’s become such a staple in Paul’s videos that fans have asked for rides in the car when they hang out with him.
Musk is likely aware that creators are important. Tesla doesn’t advertise, so the company has to figure out other ways to market its product. Creators like Casey Neistat, who has 10 million subscribers, have participated in the referral program. Ben Sullins, who has just over 110,000 subscribers, runs a channel dedicated to Tesla news, commentary, and even reviews. He helped to facilitate over $10 million in Tesla sales, according to NBC, with more than 100 people using his Tesla Referral code. (Tesla ended its referral program on February 2nd.) For Sullins, that meant a free Founder’s Series Next Gen Roadster. Both Sullins and Neistat were on hand for the unveiling of the Boring Company’s test tunnel in December, which is a nod to how much Tesla prizes influencers.
Musk has spoken directly to the YouTube community before. In August 2018, he appeared in two videos with Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee, one of YouTube’s most popular creators whose videos focus on tech and gadgets. Brownlee, an avid Tesla fan, spent the majority of his interview with Musk talking about Model 3 production, technology, and science. For Musk, Brownlee’s channel gave him the opportunity to address some of his dedicated fans, instead of journalists and investors. By dealing with Brownlee directly, Musk helped reinforce his image. It wasn’t just that Musk’s company made cool cars, but he was also cool himself.
People have been clamoring for Musk to join Kjellberg for months. In October, Musk said on Twitter that he would host “Meme Review,” leading Kjellberg’s fans to launch online petitions and beg Musk on Twitter to appear on the show. It wasn’t until February 1st that people started believing Musk might actually appear on “Meme Review.” He told one fan on Twitter it would happen “within the next few days,” following a tweet that he purchased the “stankmemes.com” URL. The mention of memes, in general, led fans to believe the purchase had to do with “Meme Review.”
Musk appearing on Kjellberg’s show is a big deal for Kjellberg. The video will likely trend on YouTube’s Trending Page, which collects the most talked-about and watched videos, and Kjellberg’s subscriber count will grow. But it’s Musk who will walk away with even more fans and, quite possibly, way more Model 3 orders.