Building the Brand: The History of Michelin
The Origin Story
While running a rubber factory in 1889, two brothers, Édouard Michelin and André Michelin had a cyclist show up at their door with a damaged pneumatic tire. After spending hours working to repair the tire, which was glued to the wheel of the bicycle, an idea sparked.
What if the brothers could make a removable tire? Well, in 1891, Michelin put forward its first patent for a removable pneumatic tire. Charles Terront used these tires to win the first long-distance cycle race, Paris-Brest-Paris.
After this, the company continued to grow, and innovate the space. And in 1898 they introduced the world to Bibendum, known widely as The Michelin Man. And over the years, as a centerpiece to Michelin’s marketing Bibendum has gone through many transformations.
Aside from having one of the most recognizable mascots in the world, in 1946, they developed the radial tire, which revolutionized the tire industry and climbed to 100% market share by 1968.
After numerous acquisitions, Michelin grew to become one of the biggest tire companies in the world–often competing with Bridgestone for the number one spot.
Today the company employs over 114,000 employees worldwide.
The Michelin Guide
Although the company has produced countless marketing campaigns, their most impactful and surprising campaign which still runs today: The Michelin Guide.
In 1900 the Michelin brothers put together the guide for motorists in France, encouraging them to drive to the locations they mentioned. The initial version included lists of restaurants, maps, gas stations and instructions on how to change a tire. There were 35,000 copies of the initial guide made and distributed throughout France.
It wasn’t until 1926 Michelin started handing out ‘stars’ to the restaurants, and it wasn’t until a decade later that they solidified their three-star system.
1 star: A very good restaurant in its category
2 stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour
3 stars: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
Today, receiving a Michelin star is the highest recognition a restaurant can receive. And to think it all started in 1900 with the idea of incentivizing driving.
Some of Their Ads Throughout the Years
Today, Michelin, Bibendum, and the Michelin Guide are all in good standing. Michelin had $22 (24.5 USD) billion Euros in sales in 2018. The Michelin guide currently lists over 8,000 restaurants worldwide and has a fully devoted part of the Michelin company.
So if you’re burning rubber, make sure it’s on the way to one of the starred restaurants.