For a long time, the Michelin tires mascot – Marshmallow Tire guy – has been considered a sensational pop culture icon, whose popularity even exceeds the Michelin brand itself.
Still, despite being around for decades, his background story remains a mystery to some. This inclusive guide will discuss all there is to know about this special guy. Keep scrolling.
In this article:
What Is Michelin Man?
Michelin Tire Man, named Bibendum, Bibelobis, or simply Bib, is the mascot of Michelin. A humanoid character whose muscles consisted of white, stacked tires, he was first introduced by the Michelin brothers in 1894 at Lyon Exhibitions.
Decades go by, and he is still around to this day, lauded as one of the oldest global trademarks in history.
Before his invention, Michelin had already been a giant in the French tire industry and remained a class-leading manufacturer worldwide. Hence, Michelin Man was visually depicted as the king of the industry, a master of expertise that reflects the truest nature of the French essence.
Why Is The Michelin Man White?
Because Michelin Man was made of white tires. During the years of Michelin’s foundation, tires mostly comprised original, untreated materials – including zinc oxide, pure rubber, and other chemicals. Their color was a natural, pure white.
As years passed, Michelin Man also underwent numerous changes to end up with the current tire-stacking design we know today. Nevertheless, for unknown reasons, Michelin never bothered to change his color from white to black to match modern tires. People deduce it might be because:
- Michelin wishes to maintain the company’s heritage and branding
- The branding agency does not want to invest money and time in rebranding
The Logo With Marshmallow Man: Pop Culture Influences and Interesting Facts
The Michelin Man was so influential in pop culture that he inspires furniture products, appears in songs, films, and movies. There is even a London-based restaurant to honor him.
Here are several intriguing tidbits about Bibendum/Michelin Man that any keen automobile enthusiast should know about.
1. There Are Furniture Products Inspired By His Designs
Bibendum’s puffy body inspired Eileen Gray – a then-famous creator – to produce Bibendum Chair. To this day, the design is still globally recognized as one of history’s most unique furniture ideas.
This chair has two padded tubes, whose semi-circular shapes are wrapped in black, soft leather. Their pricing is not to be laughed at, fluctuating between $3000 and $5000!
2. A Restaurant in London Has Paid Him Homage
Paul Hamlyn and Terence Conran, two reputed British restaurateurs, have opened a bar slashed restaurant in London to tribute Michelin Man. The restaurant was built within the Michelin House – Michelin’s old headquarters between 1911 and 1985.
3. Bibendum Is Named The Millennium’s Icon
In 2018, Advertising Week named Michelin Man the Millennium’s Icon.
With his 120-year-old presence – and the insane boost he brought about to Michelin’s revenues and rankings – this title is totally well-deserved.
4. He Appeared In Several Songs (One of Which Was Sued)
a. Momus and ‘Michelin Man.’
In 1991, artist Momus released a track about our trademarked Bibendum. Simply called “Michelin Man,” this song was introduced simultaneously with another album track, “Hippopotamus” (whose cover is also Michelin Man drawn in hippopotamus versions).
Throughout the song, Momus mentioned this trademarked mascot as the hypersexual metaphor of rubber fetishism. Such explicit and controversial lyrics were never permitted by Michelin, which led to the company suing Monus for portraying the brand’s logo in pornographic scenarios.
Consequently, all the album’s remaining copies were destroyed, and the track was forever removed from the album’s subsequent pressing. The hippo Marshmallow Man was deleted from Monus’ cover as well.
It was as if the song totally vanished from the Earth until 2018, when a box set called “Recreate” (containing several albums by Monus, including Hippopotamus) restored this track in the album. The accompanying booklet, ‘Son of Pioneers’ by Antony Reynolds”, briefly recounted the lawsuit but never explained why the song was reinstated.
b. Tryo and “Grande Sable.”
Tryo, a reggae band from France, also sang about Michelin Man in their Grande Sable album: “Bibendum, you are enormous; Bibendum, you are happiness personified.”
5. He Was Referenced In Several Films and Series
Like a true celebrity, Bibendum is truly everyone’s favorite in popular series and films:
- He made a guest appearance for the series “Asterix” and acted as a chariot dealer in several translations, including English ones. (The French version, meanwhile, used Antar’s mascot, Gaulish the warrior)
- In Logorama, the 2009 Oscar-winning animated satire film, several Bibendums played different roles of SWAT personnel, sheriff, and police detectives, joining hands to defeat the ultraviolent, psychotic criminal portrayed by Ron McDonald.
- In Ghostbusters (the dubbed version in French), the giant Puft Marshmallow mascot is called “Bibendum Chamallow.”
Is It True That Michelin Man Has A Dark History?
Yes, Micheline Man’s original look was sinister as a titan guy smoking cigars, reminiscent of a giant mummy. In some ads, Bibendum even looked more creepy holding a goblet of shattered glasses and nails, representing how tough Michelin tires were.
To represent how the Michelin brand “slaughtered” other rivals on the market, Bibendum appeared as a heartless killer that attracted controversy and violence anywhere he went.
Thankfully, as people’s conception of advertising changed over time – and Michelin became more widely known – the branding team must tone down some of his sharper edges to transform a scary mummy into an amiable marshmallow man.
After a few more refinements, the scary killer finally turned into the bubbly, white tire mascot we all know and love today.
As Michelin is still one of the market’s dominants to this day, the Marshmallow Man will likely stick with us for a few more decades. Despite thousands of new automobile trademarks and logos released every year, he remains iconic, lovable, and totally irreplaceable.