As reported in Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Thierry Rudloff -- the French company's UK marketing manager -- announced the return of their popular "Michelin Man" on February 14. How much weight did he lose? Compared to the classic version from 1905, Michelin Man lost 20% of its volume and it looks more energetic than ever.
A 2000 survey result highlighted the mascot's popularity: in Great Britain, 83% of respondents recognized it and associated it with the company. Maybe we'll fall in love with the slimmer version all over again. Bibendum, that is the Michelin Man's name (after a Chelsea restaurant), will reappear on European channels next month. Meanwhile it is already being used for promotions in the Asian market.
I actually remember the Michelin Man, it was placed strategically in various places in Italy just like in the photo here. I do wonder though about the US market: I do not recall seeing the popular mascot here. We live in other times, when putting a symbol on a diet symbolizes something; after all we have put plenty of companies on a diet.
Bibendum seems to be more than a friendly man made of tires. The symbol is being linked to a challenge for sustainable mobility. From the remarks by Michel Rollier at the opening ceremony of the 2006 challenge:
Since 1998, Challenge Bibendum has focused on providing private and public sector opinion leaders and decision-makers with objective information about the latest technological developments in automobiles and traffic management infrastructure. The goal is to work together to support the emergence of programs and policies most likely to address sustainable mobility issues, such as energy efficiency, road safety and the protection of our living and natural environments.
He then proceeded to outline the parameters for participation and to outline the credibility this initiative has gained because of them. I like especially #3:
- All types of fuels and propulsion systems can participate, which means that a very wide spectrum of solutions can be presented.
- Vehicles are tested under actual driving conditions, according to clearly defined performance, safety and environmental protection criteria.
- Ride and drive sessions are open to any participant with a valid driver’s license, who can test the different technologies and form their own opinion.
- A learning center is open to visitors who would like to explore a given technology in more detail.
The spirit of Challenge Bibendum is simply about respecting facts. It's also about a fierce desire to move forward without delay. It's the conviction that there's not just a single solution but a range of solutions that should be developed by creating powerful synergies among researchers, manufacturers, users and legislators.
The Challenge hopes to contribute a clear illustration of the technologies that will coexist in 2030. That is the year when twice as many people will be on the road as now, and more people will be living in cities.
This is a global conversation rallying around sustainable road mobility -- and the right people seem to be invited to contribute. I applaud the effort made to highlight the most significant advances in very concrete terms. This is not a bunch of people around a table: they are out there in a friendly competition testing potential future solutions.
We are badly in need of a makeover as well; one that is sustainable over the short and long term. Maybe Michelin Man getting a makeover will draw more attention to the Bibendum Challenge initiative. That's one story worth telling, and embracing.