On restaurants and tires

When the first Michelin guide came out in 1900, only a few thousand cars were on the road in France. The Michelin brothers thought that the guide would get car owners to use their vehicles more, thus buying more tires as a result.

We’ll never know if it ever helped them sell more tires, the people at Michelin can’t tell for sure, and although many of us had a Michelin-star-rated meal at least once, many more wouldn’t bet the tires and the guide are related at all.

The Michelin guide is a living fossil from an era before tracking cookies. A time when marketing teams aspired to drive culture, while today we’d call it a win to bump up conversion rates a little and at a barely sustainable cost, even with all the information we have—more or less ethically—collected about our audience.

Whatever you think about the Michelin guide, Michelin the company, and the tire business overall, don’t you find it kind of sad?