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The MICHELIN Guide: A Classic Content Marketing Case Study

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

It’s finally happening. The MICHELIN Guide is coming to my city, Atlanta!

Long hailed a “food city,” it’s a wonder why it’s taken this long. At least that’s a lot of the reaction I’ve heard around town. The city is buzzing about it.

But touting this food news isn’t exactly what motivated me to write a marketing blog post. Rather, it's the story behind the MICHELIN Guide that's got me buzzing!

Early success of content marketing

Created by Michelin, the global tire company, in 1900, the MICHELIN Guide was your classic tips and how-to guide. How to change your tire. Where to fill up for gas. Maps to help guide you to your destination.

The Michelin team was initially pleased with their guide. They thought their audience would benefit greatly from pages chock-full of helpful information about tires.

Michelin tire company serves as a content marketing case study

But, in a famous turn of events, Founder André Michelin realized that wasn't the case. He discovered that his guide was serving as a prop to support a broken workbench in a tire shop he visited. This angered Michelin. How could his guide, full of helpful information about tires, be condensed to throw-away scrap? He vowed to make sure that no one would misuse his cherished MICHELIN Guide ever again.

Michelin launched its improved guide in 1920. Under new creative direction, it expanded to include a list of Paris hotels and restaurants by category after learning that Michelin's target audience loved to travel and dine out.

It was a hit—especially the restaurant section! The company started sending anonymous inspectors to review restaurants in 1926 and from that point forward, it began building the world’s most renowned culinary rating system around the now-illustrious, Michelin stars.

This content marketing strategy achieved two very important goals.

Michelin case study: Michelin chef plating food

1) It encouraged people to drive further than they usually would to try out the acclaimed Michelin-star restaurants. The more driving, the more wear and tear on tires, translating into more people having to get their tires serviced. Genius!

2) By establishing the highest accolade in the culinary industry, the Michelin brand name became synonymous with excellence worldwide.

The Michelin brothers knew that tuning into their audience—their desires, motivations, and aspirations—could drive sales. Taking this insight, they created content so relevant, valuable, and useful that they earned brand recognition, top-of-mind awareness, and trust, which then resulted in servicing and selling more tires… for the last 103 years!

Content marketing case study for the ages

To this day, the MICHELIN Guide has taken on a life of its own. It has rated over 40,000 restaurants and sold more than 30 million copies, making this one of the most successful contenting marketing strategies of all time. If that's not enough, Chefs from around the world strive to earn a Michelin star, and when they have one, they strive for another and then another.

Atlanta chefs shoot for the stars

With the MICHELIN Guide now in Atlanta, restaurants and their chefs get more recognition and the chance for a coveted star, taking us back to the very reason why all of us in Atlanta are excited that we are finally going to be included in the Michelin Guide!


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