What content marketing lessons can we learn from Michelin and Van Damme

What content marketing lessons can we learn from Michelin and Van Damme

In 1900, French tyre manufacturers, the Michelin brothers, created a brilliant piece of content marketing. Even though fewer than 3000 cars were on the road in France at the time, they launched a free guide for motorists in an effort to boost the demand for cars and therefore tyres.

Dr Kerri Parnell
Posted by Dr Kerri Parnell

Of course, the annual publication containing maps, instructions for tyre repair and lists of car mechanics has since morphed into the best-known hotel and restaurant guide in Europe, the Michelin Guide. No longer free, the guide awards sought-after Michelin stars, which can make or break a restaurant. According to some restaurateurs, “Michelin is the only guide that counts”.

To what extent the guide was actually responsible for the rapid growth of the automobile and tyre industry is hard to gauge, but it was indisputably one mightily inspired campaign and one any clever marketing manager should strive to match.

These days the guide would be labelled ‘content marketing’ – aka ‘guest content’, ‘branded content’ or a number of alternative epithets, which seek to define content that grows the relationship with potential customers rather than merely advertising to them.  An excellent modern-day example is Volvo’s video of Jean-Claude Van Damme, which attracted 50 million hits in one week in November last year.

If there’s anyone left in the world who hasn’t yet seen the death-defying physical stunt by 53 year-old Van Damme (and apparently he did perform the stunt himself) it’s a must-see. It surprises; it amazes; it compels the viewer to watch it till the end. And it’s short.

And if I stop to think about it, I have to admit my view of Volvo has ever so subtly changed for the better.

So for those considering the content marketing option, ask yourself these questions when thinking about what that content will be:

  •  What do you want the viewer/user to feel when they see it?
  •  Does it truly add value, whether in the form of delight, need-to-know facts, or a good belly laugh?
  •  Would you choose to view/read this content over another favourite activity?

In other words, stodgy and boring content simply isn’t going to cut it, however worthy it might be. Content marketing is a great opportunity to connect to an audience. It’s not magic. Use the opportunity wisely.