History of the Michelin Man: You wouldn’t believe how “he” started life
It’s hard to believe that the iconic Michelin Man, among the most well-known brand logos in the world, has actually been around for 120 years! The always-happy pudgy guy has been the lifetime brand ambassador for tyre-maker Michelin, but how exactly did he come about? Well, it was quite simple really.
1894: The Michelin Man is born
As the official story goes, at the international Lyon Exhibition in France, brothers André and Edouard Michelin were looking for an original way of presenting their company’s products. The organiser of the Michelin stand had placed two piles of tyres at the entrance. Edouard apparently pointed to them and said: “Look at that. Add some arms, and you’d say they were men”.
1898: The Michelin Man has an actual name
André Michelin visited the talented poster artist O’Galop. The artist presented a paintbrush of a little round man made of tyres, holding a mug full of nails and pieces of glass. Thus was the “Nunc est bibendum” slogan born, translated from Latin to “the tyre that drinks up obstacles”. The Michelin Man was officially born with a heavy marketing campaign during the Paris Motor Show. The French now knew him better as Bibendum.
When Bibendum was originally sketched out, tyres were light in colour, and black versions only appeared in 1912 when a black carbon preservative was added to the manufacturing process, but Michelin decided to preserve their last-century link.
1907: The Michelin Man travels the world
The Michelin Man crossed the Atlantic and set up in the United States. The advertising took a more educational tone, depicting the Michelin Man as a giant accompanying and advising travellers on the advantages of his products. These campaigns ran all the way into the 1930s.
The Michelin Man’s appearance reflected the culture of his time, sometimes smoking cigars like in an image by French artist René Vincent, or wooing women as a diplomat in a promotional image from Italy. Over the years, the Michelin Man adopted the traditional clothing of local markets, even wearing African garb at one time.
By the 1920s, the obvious eyeglasses and cigar were discarded, both of which signified the high-end clients Michelin used to target, as cars became more affordable for the masses.
The logo continued to evolve over time, inserting itself into current affairs such as moon landings and sports events as part of the marketing, eventually making its first appearance as the Running Michelin Man in 1982.
1985: The Michelin Man makes his artistic debut
The now-formidable character made an appearance alongside James Bond when the movie A View to a Kill was released in 1985, as part of an early attempt at product-placement marketing.
1998: The Michelin Man becomes more dynamic
Having continued unchanged for decades, Bibendum finally lost some weight as part of a dynamic redesign in 1998.
2000s: The legacy of the Michelin Man lives on
The Michelin Man was elected “best logo of the century” by an international jury in 2000.
In 2011, the logo became part of the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame in New York City. This year, the Michelin Man celebrates his 120 years, becoming quite possibly the oldest “brand ambassador” ever.
Find out more at the Michelin Arabia Facebook page.