Over the years, AutoPacific has conducted a considerable amount of research on tires and tire advertising. One of the biggest blunders we have seen in recent years has been the shift by Michelin from its baby in the tire advertising to a refocus on the Michelin Man – Mr. Bibendum.
We can only guess that this change was brought on by new management at Michelin (not invented here – the previous management didn’t know what they were doing philosophy) or present management just growing weary of the same old successful baby in the tire advertising. Remember, advertising is only as strong as the management directing it.
Michelin’s Baby in the Tire Extremely Persuasive
In focus group after focus group one of the first things people remember about tire advertising is Michelin’s baby in the tire campaign. The second is Goodyear’s blimp. Michelin’s baby-oriented theme ran for years – maybe decades and was respected for continuity almost as much as BMW’s Ultimate Driving Machine message. The baby clearly communicated safety and security and hit the heart stings of every woman in the research.
One advertising critique describes the Michelin baby campaign this way: “The message here, of course, is “if you don’t lay out the extra cash for Michelin tires, you are going to kill your own child.” Too obvious and crude to fool anybody? Nope. “We are so proud of the impact the baby campaign has had over the years,” remarks a Michelin “brand manager.” “It’s rare for an advertising campaign to have this kind of longevity and influence on an industry.”"
So, faced with a long running successful campaign, Michelin shifted to the Michelin Man and killed the baby. Not that we don’t like the Michelin Man, we do, but there probably was room for both.
Advertising Age Review of Michelin Advertising Over the Years
Advertising Age describes the Michelin Man advertising in glowing terms. Introduced in 1898, the Michelin Man was an idea conceived by Edouard Michelin. Advertising Age explains:
“Andre Michelin commissioned the creation of this jolly, rotund figure after his brother, Edouard, observed that a display of stacked tires resembled a human form. The artist’s sketches of a bloated man made of tires was exactly what the brothers had in mind.
One in particular, picturing the character lifting a beer glass and shouting, “Nunc est bibendum! (Now is the time to drink!)” seemed to embody Michelin’s slogan at the time, “Michelin tires swallow up all obstacles.”
The artist reworked the hulking figure, replacing the beer bottle with a goblet of nails and glass that the character rose in a toast to all road hazards.
Today, the Michelin Man is one of the world’s oldest and most recognized trademarks and it represents Michelin in over 150 countries.”
In researching this brief blurb on Michelin’s advertising, we found Google overflowing with links. A scholarly book has even been written on Michelin advertising. The review of the book is found below the fold.