Insights on Marketing & Technology

The Michelin Guide showed the way

Say content marketing, and most thoughts go straight to company blogs, social media marketing or web content. But there’s lot to learn from an early and extremely successful example of content marketing, the Michelin guide. MARKET asked Carl Stenson, Head of Communications at Michelin Nordic, to fill us in on how you build content on something exciting outside the actual product to market it – completely without talking about the less exciting product. Which in this case is something as unsexy as car tyres.

  • By: Maria Præst
  • Published: 09-01-2014

Who hasn’t heard of the Michelin guide? Every year gourmet restaurants all over Europe – and the rest of the world – do their very best to receive one, two or three of the desirable Michelin stars. What everybody doesn’t know is that the Michelin guide is one of the first examples of successful content marketing. Let’s hear Carl Stenson, Head of Communications at Michelin Nordic, how it all started.

What were Michelin’s ideas and thoughts behind the Michelin guide to begin with?
The Michelin guide was first published in 1900 in France, so you have to see it in a social context. There were almost no automobiles in the society back then. People went by horse and carriage or by foot. But the Michelin brothers had a large passion for automobiles, and they wanted to inspire and facilitate for people to travel.

But it wasn’t easy at that time. First of all, it was only very rich people who could afford a car – there were about 3000 cars in France at that time, almost all of them in Paris. Second of all there were no maps or road signs, so if you wanted to travel from Paris to for instance Nice, it was very difficult. But the Michelin brothers wanted the people in Paris to travel so more people around France would see a car and want to buy one. The more people would travel, the quicker they would wear down their tyres and buy new ones. Also, any new car would need a set of tyres. It was as simple at that.

So in the beginning the Michelin guide was a small practical guide with hands-on tips and tricks on how to get around France at the time. How to find places to refuel, how to recharge batteries, how to change tires, where to find supplies and parts, and also where to find toilets, meals and accommodation along the way.

What has the Michelin guide meant for Michelin as a company and for its brand?
The connection between the Michelin guide and tyres are not so obvious today, but it all leads in to our mission – a better way forward – which relates both to tyres and making travelling more enjoyable.

For us as a company the Michelin guide is a part of our heritage, a part of our internal spirit. We want to make travelling more safe and enjoyable for the traveller. It’s our DNA.

For our brand the impact of the Michelin guide is huge. The latest global brand value survey estimates the Michelin brand value to 4,4 billion dollars. The brand value is not only related to the guide, but it has its impact. We are the number one tire brand globally and the 21st among the top 100 most reputable companies.

We also get a lot of media coverage from the guide. If we just look at the press clip, roughly one third is linked to the Michelin guide. When we launched the Michelin guide 2013 in the Nordic countries in March this year, we got 420 articles within the first 24 hours.

So the link might not be obvious, but it puts our brand in the eyes of the consumers, so Michelin is top of mind, when the consumer are off to buy for instance summer tires.

The Michelin guide has developed to become the benchmark of gourmet dining over the years. Has your audience changed along with this?
The Michelin guide is not only about stars and fine dining. We like to see it as a guide that has something for everybody. It’s adoptable to all kinds of people.
We’re trying to make the content much more accessible and move away from the perception that the Michelin guide is only for the culinary freaks – it is for everybody. www.viamichelin.com is for instance the most used travel site around the world.

What is Michelin’s view on content marketing today?
It is a very interesting topic. A couple of years back everybody...
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