Content marketing: a lesson from Michelin Tires

Content marketing began with Michelin Tires. True that.

Hey, content marketing people!

A tire company has the world’s best restaurant guide. Seriously. That’s content marketing.

One of the most effective rules of content marketing, at least for me, is telling interesting stories that have only a tangential connection (or even nothing to do with) your product or service. As long as they’re relevant and useful, they’re golden.

This is the epitome of reader-focused copy. But it’s also a helpful credo when you’ve written 50 blog posts and then run out of relevant ideas.

Want a great example of this?

Go back 117 years, to famous tire company Michelin. It proved – even before content marketing existed – that success comes from focusing on the solutions to consumers’ problems. Not the channel you use to speak to them.

There were 3,000 cars in France in the early 1900s and the only way Michelin could sell more tires was by raising that number. As you can imagine, that’s tough on any growth strategy, because there’s no point in advertising tires if no one has a car to put them on.

So the Michelin brothers had to think laterally. As a result, they created the Michelin Guide, to provide motorists with useful free information. This included maps, tire repair and replacement instructions, car mechanic listings, hotels, and petrol stations throughout France.

Then, in 1926, the guide began to award stars to the chefs of fine dining restaurants. In 1936, Michelin’s criteria for starred rankings were published:

  • 1 star: “A very good restaurant in its category”
  • 2 stars: “Excellent cooking; worth a detour”
  • 3 stars: “Exceptional cuisine; worth a special journey”

Today the Michelin Guide appears in 14 editions, covering 23 countries and expanding constantly. Not bad for a 117-year-old innovation.

Here’s Michelin’s Travel Guide to SA.

Let’s talk content marketing.