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Retro Content Marketing: Michelin I-Spy

Written by Warren Davidson on 11 Jun 15
Retro Content Marketing: Michelin I-Spy

When innocent books become a powerful marketing tool.

I like retro things. Pacman, GPO telephones, the original Star Wars films… it goes on. As I was getting rid of a load of old junk in my house, I came across some I-Spy books from my childhood. Take a look below:

I used to flick through these on journeys to the seaside, seeing what I could spot and tick off. Hours of stimulation and they cost either £1.25 or £1.50 per book (why the difference, I don’t know). Back then, I didn’t realise the publisher was Michelin, the fat white tyre-man.

The marketing spin

Not a bad tactic from Michelin, right? When Mum and Dad pop into the petrol station on the motorway and spot these books, it would certainly look a cheap, engaging way to keep the kids quiet at the back. A positive bit of brand building and, who knows, probably a lot of new customers along the way with countless punctures and worn tyres.

A digital refresh

When looking into the history a bit more, I discovered there’s an actual dedicated I-Spy Books website. It’s a microsite with no Michelin upselling, just a link in the footer navigation for their main website. You can learn ‘how to I-Spy’, purchase more books and become a member of NAPE: the National Association for Primary Education. There’s also a link to ViaMichelin, a comprehensive route planner – another piece of content marketing. While both are undoubtedly falling by the website, with tablets and sat-nav catering for the respective demands, it’s clear that Michelin were forward-thinking in their content marketing approach almost 20 years ago. I can’t find anything remotely similar from their main competitors, Bridgestone.

What other interesting examples of content marketing can you think of? I might not be throwing these away after all – it appears I haven't made much progress in any of the books. And I'm still on the hunt for the the 1923 Flying Scotsman locomotive.

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