The Michelin tyre company created a mascot that has served as the textbook example of how to achieve corporate identity on a global scale.
As the Michelin Man became known, Bibendum has been with us for almost as long as the automobile itself.
After more than 120 years after its debut, the Michelin Man remains the favourite among advertising mascots and is still recognisable today. It was inspired by an interestingly stacked pile of tyres on display at the Lyon Exhibition in 1894. The Michelin brothers Andre and Edouard thought the stack resembled a man without arms. Four years later, the brothers met French cartoonist Marius Rossillon, who professionally went by the name of O’Galop, who showed them an image of a similar figure he had drawn for a restaurant and the Michelin Man was born.
Bibi is essentially a human-like figure made of tires that have undergone many changes over the years but his humanoid appearance and wide eyes have lent him charm appeal. Tyres are now black rubber, but they were originally white and Bibi remains white, except in a handful of illustrations and modern figures. Today some people would say incorrectly that this was a racial statement. Bibi has been used in all manner of advertising collectables, such as clocks, trucks, figures, and toys as well as posters and maps. Because there are thousands of items with his likeness, collecting Bibi memorabilia is a collector's paradise.
The original Michelin Man had human hands and was very round and fat, but there are exceptions. In many ways he was the caricature of the well-off class of the day, smoking cigars and wearing a monocle. He was made from several layers of thin tyres, but as time passed, the tyres grew fatter. In recent years Bibi has stopped smoking and has become thinner.
Michelin Man advertising posters are highly collectable, especially those pre-dating World War II. The artwork was excellent so given the level of craftsmanship that went into painting them, they also have cross-appeal with collectors of early advertising posters.
Other forms of Bibi such as older metal objects, including figures, ashtrays, banks, toys and similar are also sought after. Many items are made from cast iron although there are some made of bronze, pot metal and other materials, and interest in these objects is usually strong because they make great display pieces or decorations. The popular Michelin Man collectables have attractiveness, scarcity and provenance.