Noted as one of the most iconic ‘advertising mascots of all the time’ by Business Insider, the Michelin Man’s obese, benevolent appearance has charmed generations and helped in establishing Michelin as a household name, when it comes to using tyres. The Michelin Man is highly reputed among the advertising fraternity, still after it was launched more than a century ago.
But, the character story of ‘Michelin Man’ is actually a lot deeper and darker than what most of us would think. The original name of the Michelin Man’s name is actually “Bibendum,” which was taken from a collection of poems by the Roman poet Horace who wrote Latin slogan ‘Nuncestbibendum’ which translates into English as “Now is the time to drink”.
In 1894, at Lyon Universal Exhibition, the Michelin brothers noticed an evocatively shaped pile of tyres on their stand, to which Edouard said to Andre that – with arms it would look like a man. Later in the year 1898, when looking at an advertising sketch which was made by French cartoonist Marius Rossillon or popularly known as O’Galop, for a Munich brewery, in which a large bearded man was shown holding aloft a glass of beer, that was actually rejected, Andre immediately suggested to make it more appealing by replacing the man with a figure made from the tyres and holding a cup filled with nails and broken glass. Therefore, O’Galop transformed the earlier image into what would turn out to be Michelin’s new symbol. The idea behind this creation was that the Michelin’s creature could drink up anything thrown at it and will continue to move forward – conquering every hindrance and business competitors alike.
Although, originally, he was intended to be a creature of jollity, bright-eyed, roly-poly, ambassador of goodwill, but in the original advertisements, the “Michelin Man” was a grotesque, cadmium-hued phantom. Sometimes he chomped on a cigar like a corpulent villain. The original Michelin Man was composed of bicycle tyres, giving him a ropey and mummy-like appearance. They were also whitish-grey in colour as black tyres at that time were not in existence.
Over the years, a number of artists illustrated Bibendum, giving him a wide range of characteristics and humour. Among his characterizations included Scottish bagpiper player, a painter, a bar brawler and a high society entertainer. But today, he has said bye to those beer and cigars and has a more appealing and up to date look. This new look was adopted in 1998 on his 100th birthday, by the company.
It is now more than 115-year old character which is one of the world’s oldest trademarks and also one of the most loved characters in the field of advertising. Bibendum’s looks and appearance may have gone through changes over a period of time. But, its value and vitality remained of same stature i.e. of high-quality and endurance.