Michelin and Marketing

The Michelin Guide first made an appearance in 1900 with the primary goal being to boost the demand for cars and, accordingly, car tires. With fewer than 3,000 cars on the roads in France, the Michelin brothers published the guide for French motorists.

In the most basic terms the Michelin Guide was a marketing campaign created by the Michelin company. The problem is that most people don't know that the two are one and the same. They're the same company. I think most people assume that the name is coincidental and two companies rather than one.

“Use our guide to France, and when you need tires…we’ll be here waiting for you.” This was the underlying theme of the original guide. But the world has changed and Michelin hasn't done much to change with it. In the years since the launch of the Michelin Guide, the divide between it and the rest of the company seems to grow bigger and bigger.

Here we are over 100 years later and most people are familiar with the Michelin Star rating system, but no one associates the guide with tires. Chefs and restaurants from around the world are obsessed with collecting stars. People travel all over the world to visit restaurants who have earned 1, 2, or 3 Michelin Stars, but cars are only one of the many modes of transportation people use to get there.

Michelin has staying power. The company has been around forever and has a reliable reputation. Once upon a time they had a brilliant marketing idea and the results of that have stuck around. But they've never closed the gap between the guide and the rest of the company and I think there will always be some regret associated with that.

I can only hope that even one piece of work I create over the next 60+ years has even half of the staying power of something like the Michelin Guide. I also hope that when I am a part of work like that, that I am able to be instrumental in ensuring the seamlessness between that work and the rest of the company.