“My conviction is that the brand is one of the most strategic and important assets for the company, especially when the brand has such a rich historical background and content,” she states. Rich history indeed! More than a hundred years ago Michelin revolutionised the industry by inventing the demountable tire. This not only had cyclists all over the world raving about the brand, but also put Michelin on the map to stay. Because let us not forget that other convenience Michelin has bestowed upon the world. The Michelin Guide was originally conceived to facilitate travellers in finding the right mechanic in case of a mishap, and point them to the right spot to eat and stay while their car was being fixed up. A couple of stars can go a long way… These examples are just two milestones in Michelin’s legacy that makes it more than a tire brand. Because contrary to popular belief, it has always been about more than just dependable rubber. Michelin’s new vision revolves around a concept that is highly familiar to the brand: Better Mobility. Its relentless drive for facilitating mobility shows up in several aspects of life on the road. Take the brand’s truck tires for instance; the sales’ focus does not lie on the tires themselves but rather on the servicing provided for them as well as the distance they will last. Or take Michelin’s cartography, which was the first to provide French drivers with detailed road maps and significantly helped develop road transport and overall mobility. Naturally, the rest of the world was eager to follow, leading to the ingenious web application on viamichelin.com that guides drivers from their front doors to wherever they wish to go, while listing the total costs, weather and tourist info as a bonus. By focusing heavily on the benefits of its core business – Better Mobility – instead of only on the product, Michelin convincingly incorporates legitimacy in the discussion about mobility as a whole.
Love the player, love the game
Michelin’s performance and responsibility approach is unique to the company. It is the way they exercise their values: respect for customers, people, shareholders, environment and facts. The unstoppable growth in road mobility and the limits of the earth on which we are dwelling, have introduced new demands to the game. Pollution, noise, CO2 emissions and other environmental and social issues are now linked to Michelin’s products on a global scale. Therefore product endurance is not enough anymore.
The brand is fully aware that it has to dedicate itself to finding sustainable solutions, and must constantly innovate to safeguard its health and longevity. Or, as Michelin calls it, business as usual. Satisfying the individual’s needs, while simultaneously answering the call of the collective has always been at the heart of this brand. To the extent that Michelin voluntarily shares several of its major discoveries with the rest of the industry, with no ulterior motive than to speed things up in the sector as a whole. It’s just how Michelin rolls.
Communication: Of price and men
Michelin is now ready to incorporate the Better Mobility mission into its products and services communication, and will reposition the brand accordingly. Surely a challenge, but considering one of its greatest allies in this process is the ‘Michelin Man’, we are not too worried. The brand’s iconic ambassador will pair devilishly good looks and irresistible charm with Michelin’s vision for better mobility. And the world will rejoice.
With Europe steadily spiralling into a recession, Michelin refuses to cut pricing to stay on top. Its price range is even above just about anyone in the field. There simply is no need for discounting quality, as Claire explains. “The challenge is to be in the best segment. We are the only brand to demonstrate the three most important qualities all at once: safety, saving energy and longevity.” As it turns out, buying Michelin tires will save you money in the long run anyway: its durable tires will last longer, cause fewer emissions and save petrol costs. No wonder the brand is used to a very high customer brand loyalty. Claire confirms: “This is really in our brand territory.”
Sustainability: We love you, tomorrow
“We have a sustainable-development policy that is fully integrated into our global strategy for plants, in the way we manufacture the tires, as well as in the process in which we ‘retire’ old ones,” explains Claire. Michelin is a fervent supporter of Producer Responsibility, and has revised and restructured its processes to minimise their impact on the environment. One of the brand’s first moves was the institution of the so-called MEF, short for Michelin sites Environmental Footprint. This environmental-performance indicator is linked to resource consumption, emissions and waste of all its production sites. Michelin strives to reduce all of these by twenty percent by 2011.
The production of its famed Green Tires, which reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency, has skyrocketed by sixty percent since the first set hit the asphalt in 1992. This makes the brand solely responsible for the reduction of nasty effects linked to the tire industry, like tire debris, oil residue and harmful chemicals. Lastly, Michelin is the first to effectively recover end-of-life tires, and boasts an impressive ninety percent of all Michelin tires to be fully reprocessed.
Body to the soul
Michelin knows like no other that it is the inside that counts. Its extensive internal or employee branding strategy aims to immerse every employee in the brand’s history, mission and values. Claire: ”The name Michelin, which is the name of the company, the name of the product and the name of the brand of course, is really the link between all employees of Michelin throughout the world. It is the one thing that everybody has in common.” By internally adding a detailed, ‘tell-all’ story to the brand’s signature ‘Better Mobility’, employees get a firm handle on Michelin’s vision and strategy. Which goes for trusted, as well as new Michelin countries. “Our activity is tires, but we manufacture tires differently,” Claire explains. “We want to balance high performance and our responsibility.” With this essential knowledge employees are better able to internalise the brand’s desired image, and project it to the world around them. And it doesn’t stop at passionate words, mind you. Michelin gladly puts its money where its heart is. By introducing an Employee Shareholders Plan, for example, the brand actively involves the work force in the company. Simultaneously, performance and cohesion increase, as do company pride and job satisfaction. Claire: “I think it is important to realise that it is not only words and publicity, that we should care about. It is really about the vision of our ‘metier’ and the vision of the company.” Claire cares deeply about further developing employee branding within the company, and not without reason: “The most important thing for a strong brand is to be completely understood internally. The next step is that internal people will carry this vision outside the company to their families, friends, everybody. What we have created then is that we have made an ambassador out of every employee.”
Balance to the force
Considering the maturity of the tire market, Michelin’s main objective is to constantly progress while keeping a keen eye out for the economy, environment and the people within and outside of the Michelin Group. By anticipating and exceeding expectations of consumers, shareholders, car manufacturers and governments alike, the brand will be able to achieve structural long-term growth and balance.
From that first demountable tire in 1891 to the Michelin Energy Saver green tire of 2008, Michelin has gone out of its way to ensure that getting around in this world is easy, efficient and safe.
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