How Elon Musk’s ‘SNL’ appearance created a ‘seismic shift’ for his personal brand: expert

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Elon Musk tried his hand at hosting “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend and while the Tesla CEO’s showing yielded mixed reviews in the court of public opinion, Musk’s display is speaking volumes with regards to his personal brand image, according to one media and public relations expert.

Eric Schiffer, an author and leading expert in media and branding, believes Musk helped himself immensely during his appearance on the live sketch show simply in the way he was able to personally connect with viewers either by being just moderately funny in some instances and being self-deprecating in others.

“I think his appearance was a seismic shift in the future of his brand because it allowed him to out-position himself from most entrepreneurs who are not able to connect emotionally and humble themselves in ways that he did,” Schiffer told Fox News of the SpaceX head honcho’s willingness to reveal personal anecdotes about himself, like how he has Asperger’s.

“Very, very few super-successful entrepreneurs are willing to be so revealing and vulnerable which will always connect with people,” continued the Mensa member. “That’s just how we’re wired. We want to relate to their humanity. And people want to people want to relate to successful people and humanity. When people that have reached hyper levels of achievement are willing to display humility and be self-deprecating and vulnerable, they’re going to be that much more beloved.”

For all of Musk’s perceived shortcoming in the eyes of many, the space expert has managed to master the art of social interaction, especially considering his willingness to spar or respond to those on social media in a new digital age that previously disallowed the average person to connect firsthand with a corporate CEO on the level of Musk.

“This is a guy who connects extremely well with Gen-Z and millennial audiences that value a mix of transparency and speaking his mind mixed with humor that can include torpedoes at times with a smirk,” Schiffer explained of Musk’s polarization. 

Schiffer went on to explain that Musk “has that Trumpian quality of never knowing what may happen” and is a “constant wild card” which is “crucial” in entertainment. “He gets the power of that and he understands how to reinforce his brand in ways that capture the imagination – whether it’s space or touching on deeply held values of young people like sustainability and a carbon-free world,” Schiffer said. 

Regardless of how split opinions are on Musk or his “SNL” showcase, Schiffer believes Musk has once again provided an interesting blueprint for other front-facing CEOs to emulate as they too figure out how to capture the attention of audiences whose available time is becoming shorter and more valuable – thus the sputtering “SNL” needed to hit the ball out of the part and Schiffer praised producers for their work with millennials and Gen-Zers.


“The knives have been out for ‘SNL’ and they’ve been suffering for some time a slow, merciless death in connecting with younger people in general and the show benefited from two things: tremendous access via streaming and an icon to Gen-Z and millennials and a show that was in some ways oriented to have Gen-Zers feel, seen, heard and understood,” he said.

“So in the episode where Musk played the doctor and there was this mirroring of the Gen-Z lexicon, I turned to my girls who are both 14, and they said, ‘Wow, they really got us,’ Schiffer maintained. “So ‘SNL’ was able to highlight and understand how people talk within that generation and how they approach things and that helps too.”

Whether that’s going to shift the tide entirely, remains to be seen. But Schiffer believes having Musk on “SNL” gave an opportunity for younger people to be more open to viewing the show again.


“This was an epic shot in the arm for ‘Saturday Night Live’ and a roaring success for Musk that allowed him to win over people that may be turned off by his immense wealth and/or viewed him in ways that didn’t see that he also has a soul and humanity that they can connect with,” the expert added.

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