Max Tolsdorff is the head of marketing at Polestar Germany. Finding a career that combines business with creative thinking allows him the perfect outlet to bring innovative messages to life.
Having initially started an apprenticeship at the German Sparkasse, Max Tolsdorff soon realised that a world without creativity was not for him. With this, he braved the jump to Innsbruck where he could combine his passion for mountain sports with studying Business Economics.
Through his studies and the advancement of creative thinking, Max began to be interested in a career where he could combine the business side with creative solutions. Having worked in the Consumer Activation Marketing Department for Red Bull, in Austria and California, Max’s creative side was still not fully fulfilled.
Listen to this episode of “Off the Record” to discover how Max became the Head of Marketing at the automotive brand Polestar, without any prior experience in the automobile industry!
Max’s story is one that inspires you to brave the leap and take the next career step, even if it is unexpected.
Starting Off (1:35)
In the beginning of his career, Max started an apprenticeship at a traditional German bank, the Sparkasse. After finishing his A levels, he was not sure what he wanted to study and ended up rushing on a decision to start an apprenticeship at a bank.
After two weeks at the apprenticeship, Max already knew this was not what he wanted to go for — as he rapidly understood his need for a creative environment. However, being young and with a conservative mindset, he still stuck to it and fought through the rest of the two and a half years ahead.
Realizing he was not interested in only doing something because it looked good on his CV, Max moved to Austria to start doing something he really wanted to. Following his dream to live in a ski-resort, Max moved to Innsbruck where he studied Business Economics and later received his Master in Strategic Management with a focus on Marketing.
Living the life he always dreamed of, Max was able to redefine himself and follow his sense of creativity.
Soon, he understood he strived for combining business needs and strategies with creative solutions to solve problems. To get his foot in the door, he took a job on the side in a creative agency where he could combine both elements and keep learning.
This in the end led to an application at Red Bull. An experience that once again showed he had to make compromises. Although Red Bull suited his aims and personality, Max was working in Trade Marketing Department, which supports the sales of a company.
After one and a half years of the traineeship, Max decided to move sideways to the Marketing Department, more specifically to Consumer Activation. After being able to let his creativity shine, grow and learn a lot, Max got the opportunity move to the U.S. and apply his knowledge for the whole U.S market.
It was also very important to me to not do something just for the job, but rather have a good work-life balance.Max Tolsdorff
Braving the Move to California (8:21)
Working in Los Angeles for two years, Max ran into a couple of intercultural difficulties. Living in Austria taught him that you can be straight forward when you have a specific opinion. However, in the U.S. you have to be careful in regards to what you say and how you say it. With time, Max learned how to adjust to this and bring across his viewpoints and opinions as a straightforward thinker.
I think what people in Europe are better at is, if you discuss a business topic, you can get into a discussion and be honest. But then after the meeting, you go out and you’re friends again.Max Tolsdorff
Sustainability and mobility
Max was never passionate about working for companies that are not committed to sustainability. But the concern of working for sustainable businesses was something that he was especially confronted with in California, as people are really striving for a better future in the U.S.
The automobile industry was one that Max found very attractive due to the dominance that mobility has on humans. Originally not wanting to necessarily be part of such a polluting industry, his perspective shifted with the popularity of electric cars.
Head of Marketing at Polestar (13:41)
Finding it difficult to move up at Red Bull in the U.S., due to the constant change and the introduction of new people, Max opened himself on LinkedIn to new opportunities.
Not thinking that the market roles for Polestar would open in 2019, Max saw the job opening as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He jumped on this one chance, was put into contact with HR, and the rest is history.
As Polestar is a brand that wants to do things differently, they do not seek to employ people into their Marketing Department that have previous experience in the automotive industry. The reason for this being that people without this specific background can bring new perspectives and approaches to the table.
In the beginning you need to show what you’re capable of — you bring a couple of projects to life to see if they are working or not, and if your strategy is working.Max Tolsdorff
Talking about the automotive industry business model
Polestar is shifting the landscape in which the car industry operates as the brand allows its customers to purchase a car online. This takes away the element of having to go to the local car dealership and configuring the dream car there.
Brands such as Volvo and Mercedes are also growing into this new sales experience, however contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with the pandemic.
While a local car dealer brings a lot of value to the overall buying experience, it is not the way of the future and adds up a significant cost to the final product. In the digital age, people are used to purchasing things online, regardless of the size or price as you can always send something back.
With people understanding online business more and trusting online business more, […] it’s just the time for it right now.Max Tolsdorff
Being Different By Design (26:28)
Polestar uses innovative contests and advice from the community to decide what their next move is and what their social media and marketing campaigns should look like.
With electric cars rising in the automotive industry, many electric brands are shaping their vehicles around the style of a spaceship, oftentimes making them very round. In fact, it is now questionable how to design an electric car, since the functionality is different than the regular model people got used to.
In the past, the way the wind breaks had a great influence on the shape of a car. However, now there are other concerns, such as where the battery should be stored, so this core approach is slowly shifting.
According to Max, Polestar is striving to design an electric vehicle that has the look and feel of a regular performance car, the only difference being that it is “fuelled” differently.
There is also a self-grown design community on Instagram (@polestardesigncommunity) based in Sweden, where many designers enthusiastic about the brand’s lean design make their own branded creations. Polestar is trying to collaborate with the community and integrate the different perspectives and creativity into the business.
Max believes that as the industry is growing you need to strive to differentiate with your creativity. However, your creativity needs to include a goal and aim in regards to where things should be going and what you want to say.
You can argue when designing a car, it shouldn’t just be a crazy, creative design, but it should be functional. The same, I would say, applies for any advertising for any campaign that we do.Max Tolsdorff
Becoming More Creative as a Manager (44:51)
Max has a passion for combining a business need with a creative strategy. Always striving to find a new solution to what people are used to, Max tries to apply this in his role at Polestar and the innovative aspects it entails.
In his times working for Consumer Activation at Red Bull, Max was always searching for new ways to do things. Having an eye on new technology driving the community, he established a Virtual Reality competition for Red Bull lovers.
What’s next for Polestar? (51:15)
Polestar is going to offer a couple of new car models where the design will remain the same, but the engine will be different.
New cool collaborations and partnerships are in the pipeline and, after the lockdown, Polestar is hoping to open their remaining spaces in Germany — as currently there are only three open, and four more still to come.
With the spaces, the brand is hoping to bring people together and host events that are aimed at discussing design and sustainability.
For the year of 2021, Cherrydeck and Polestar will collaborate again. Stay tuned for our 2.0. photography competition.
Listen to the Full Story
Are you interested in learning how to follow Max’s path?
Check out the advice he gave when asked our three questions!
#1 What do you think all marketers should know?
All marketers should know where they want to drive their brand to. If you don’t know where you’re going, you might find great opportunities but you could also go in a direction that is contradicting.
With contradicting what is meant is, you still need to make sure that your brand message is consistent. If you are, for instance, trying to adapt your brand so that it looks good in a specific country, you could risk losing your brand identity.
Bottom line: Be aware of what your brand identity is and what you want to achieve. Don’t forget to keep the consistency.
#2 What do you think every brand should stop doing right now?
Lying. There is a certain grey zone in between being creative and bringing your message across, and not saying the whole truth. In the digital world, transparency will create authenticity, and if you are lying someone will uncover it.
In the automotive industry, transparency is key in order to reach the goals and mission of zero emissions. You should not only advertise something to get people interested in your product, but also show that your brand is honest.
#3 If you could spend €1,000 on an ad campaign, what would you do?
Try and put it on a competition on social media, with a certain incentive that people need to share it and tag other people. A really nice competition with a good message and incentive that you can talk about later. Something that creates a story and you get more out of your money.