Why the Wisest Marketers Should Follow the Michelin Star

I’ve normally associated the name Michelin with tires. But when I heard that the French brand’s more tasteful side of business (pun intended) released its 2013 Chicago Guide last month, Michelin had my attention in a new way. For those who are unaware of the Michelin Guide (as I used to be): one, two or three Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants based on the quality of products used, consistency of execution, personality of cuisine and mastery of cooking and flavors. One star is awarded for very good, two stars are awarded for excellent and three stars for exceptional and “worth a special journey.” The kicker: chefs and patrons have no idea when a Michelin inspector is present at a restaurant.

At first I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fairer if the restaurants knew the inspectors were coming in beforehand?” Chefs could place a special order for a rare ingredient; waitstaff would show up early to shine the silverware; a new piece of art might be hung in the entryway.  Everyone would be on their best behavior and be prepared to deliver the best performance. And then after the inspection hoopla, they could go back to…normal?

Absolutely not. Since the coveted three-star rating demands a consistent, authentic, rock-your-socks tasting experience — exceptional is now the norm. And really, that extends beyond the competitive Chicago restaurant scene.

In the marketing world, our clients are our Michelin inspectors: they hunger for ingenuity, crave consistency and carefully savor each blend of marketing tactics against their brand’s unique palette. And with so many B2B agencies capable of serving this up—clients will hold fast to their criteria each time they come to the table.

As this year draws to a close, we reflect on and celebrate the times we delivered the exceptional. But we also spend time rigorously reinventing the soufflés that fell a bit flat (since the Michelin folk are French and all), as well as uncovering the new flavors and concoctions that our inspectors will be hankering for next year. But as for 2012… we certainly hope we’ve been worth the special journey.