We take a look back at a success story spanning over a hundred years.
By: Russ Higgins
July 17, 2018
He’s been around 120 years already. Who? The Michelin Man of course!
Bibendum, the Michelin Man, has turned 120. Dreamed up by the Michelin brothers and cartoonist “O’Galop” and designed from a stack of tires, the Michelin Man has accompanied generation after generation of travelers all around the world.
Born in 1898, Bibendum (the Michelin Man’s real name) has undergone many changes over the years as Michelin’s brand icon. To advertise the 120th-anniversary event, Michelin has created a specific design which shows Bibendum from 1898 and today’s Michelin Man shaking hands. “Bibendum’s handshake expresses Michelin’s continuity: yesterday, today and tomorrow,” the company says.
Bibendum will spend much of the year celebrating. A major exhibition covering 120 years of Bibendum is being held at L’Aventure Michelin, the tire maker’s museum in Clermont-Ferrand, France, where visitors can revel in the Bibendum story until December 31, 2018.
“With arms like that, he’ll be a big guy!” Bibendum’s inimitable silhouette came straight from the imagination of André and Edouard Michelin and became a reality through the brushes of the artist Marius Rossillon, known by Bibendum’s pen name “O’Galop”.
Next, he appeared in full size at the Michelin booth for the first edition of the Paris Motor Show.
Each of Bibendum’s public appearances quickly created a buzz. He quickly established a certain friendship with Bibendum’s admirers. A stroke of advertising genius, he appeared on every one of the brand’s advertising resources, illustrating and explaining technical information associated with correct tire use. He is the genie of Mobility, who advises and guides.
The Birth of a Legend
O’Galop was the first to bring the Michelin Man to life but other great names in advertising and poster art also contributed to Bibendum’s fame. But to make him easier to recognize, Michelin soon standardized Bibendum’s representation. And Bibendum became even simpler when the Michelin Manufacture employed its own full-time artists in its Design Studio in the 1920s.
Now with a defined number of tires for Bibendum’s body and clear style lines, little by little the Michelin Man became a universal icon. Smiling, kind, protective, mischievous, the Michelin Man is today known and recognized all over the world.
The Reflection of an Era
Bibendum’s development says a lot about the Bibendum ‘story of the car industry… Initially, he bore the features of a social class that at the time were the only ones that could afford to try his new means of transport (monocle, cigar, signet ring, cuff links, etc.). Then, little by little, cars became affordable and the Michelin Man removed Bibendum’s accessories and became the friendly guy we know today.
A Universal Character
Bibendum’s international career started very early. With the sales teams, he traveled roads the world over to meet new clients and forge the brand’s reputation. No continent escaped his charms. From the 1920s, Bibendum’s fame was already planetary!
Bibendum’s popularity grew as the years went by, testified by the ultimate tribute in 2000: the Michelin Man was voted the best brand icon of all time by a jury of professionals for the Financial Times.
Bibendum’s story has never stopped and neither have Bibendum’s design developments. This is why he changed again in 2017, to keep in line with Michelin’s eternally modern approach…