Have you ever seen an ad with someone promoting a product or service? If you’ve ever been online, your answer is definitely yes. Hiring individuals with a following to speak about a product or service is a tactic that many businesses find helpful. Consumers enjoy seeing someone who they look up to promote a brand. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Social media has amplified the use of influencers, but this marketing strategy has been around for decades. Let’s take a deeper look at the history of influencer marketing.
The very first examples of influencer marketing date all the way back to Ancient Rome. An identifiable concept of this age was the character of Roman Gladiators. Gladiators were similar to modern day athletes and participated in battles that were a major form of entertainment. People gathered in arenas to watch battles and Gladiators were seen as strong and athletic. Images of these characters were used on billboards to promote upcoming battles and were even used to promote simple products like oil or wine.
Another example of influencer marketing is the use of Queen Charlotte for promoting the products of an individual. Josiah Wegwood was a craftsman who worked closely with the Queen in the 1700’s. He was her favorite craftsman, so she granted him permission to use imagery of her and the King in promotion of his products and services. This aided his credibility and contributed to growth in sales.
Everyone’s favorite jolly man was one of the original influencers. In 1931, Coca-Cola created an image of Santa to utilize in their advertisements. Prior to this, Santa was portrayed as a less cheery older man, but Coca-Cola brought us the rosy-cheeked, smiling Santa we know today. This campaign boosted sales for the brand and is proof that if people love the person promoting the product, they too will like the product more.
Two other influencer based campaigns were done by Marlboro and Old Spice. In 1950, Marlboro used “cool” men, typically actors who played rugged roles, to make smoking a Marlboro cigarette seem trendy. In a time when smoking was a large phenomenon, the market was very competitive. Marlboro wanted to target the “cool guy” and therefore used icons who portrayed that. This helped them stand out among other brands.
Old Spice did a similar thing in 2010 with their campaign: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” Prior to this, Old Spice was considered an “old man” brand by many. They wanted to appeal to a younger audience, so they used actors who fit this demographic. Actor Isaiah Mustafa was used to showcase the type of individual being promoted to. This campaign showed the brand in a fun light and made it more appealing to a younger audience.
This takes us to what we now think of as an influencer. 2010 was a big year for YouTube bloggers (also known as video bloggers or vloggers for short). These individuals gained following on YouTube by creating content that appealed to a niche audience. This was the beginning of influencer marketing because brands were able to target influencers that were in their product niche. This practice has transformed to apply to platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat.
So although traditional influencers are seen as social media gurus, the concept of influencing began before social media existed. This marketing strategy has proved to be useful for decades and has a positive effect on brand awareness and increased sales. Head to our last blog post that dives deeper into this hot topic to learn more.