The History of Influencer Marketing

What is it? A type of marketing that focuses on the power of an individual and how that person or character could impact an entire market. In fact, you may ask yourself, “When did influencer marketing become such a ‘thing?’” There are so many brands out there that have experimented with influencer marketing and today, 37% of marketers are dedicating a budget for influencer marketing.

As it turns out, influencer marketing dates to the late 1800s. Throughout the 19th century, celebrities were often paid to promote popular items such as cigarettes and home goods. In another realm (literally), the Queen and Pope were used to promote medicines – bringing illustrious excitement to rather dull products. In addition to celebrities and notable individuals, companies began to create characters to personify their brands and relate to consumers.

These are characters that we bet you know. Ever thought of them of sparking the movement of ‘influencer marketing?’

·      In 1890, R.T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave, Nancy Green, to be the spokesperson for Aunt Jemima pancake mix. With Green, Aunt Jemima became a recognizable product with a specific identity – still recognized today.

·      In the 1930s, Coca Cola recognized the importance of Santa Claus. Before the 1930s, Santa Claus was a stricter character, looking more authoritative than friendly. However, Coca Cola realized the feeling Santa could potentially evoke, Coca Cola remade “Santa’ as their own – and he became their brand endorsement.

·      In the 1950s, Marlboro Man made his first appearance. He was the biggest influencer marketer of the decade and endorsed the cigarette company until 1999.

·      In 2010, Old Spice struck gold. Their campaign of personalized videos was sent to celebrities and notable individuals (those with large social media following) went viral. The brand complemented these videos by ensuring they responded in real-time to fans – they looked to create a connection between the brand and consumer (which they did so successfully).  

Although influencer marketing may seem like it just sprung up in the last few years, it has been alive since the 19th century. The popularity and breadth of this movement – relative to the power of social media – however, is new.

Google searches for ‘influencer marketing’ have increased 325% in the last 12 months. In 2017, 82% of brands expect to spend more on video influencer content. Moreover, 41% of marketers say that they have seen more success in influencer campaigns than in traditional ad efforts. Curious about some of the brands experimenting with this? It hits every category – Old Navy Gap and Fashion Nova, Naked Juice, Glossier, Estee Lauder, Tarte Cosmetics and Axe, Sperry, Hallmark, and Loeffler Randall, to name a few.

Influencer marketing is yet another example of marketers attempting to connect with audiences and customers. Brands partner with and employ influencers that resemble their brand, some to whom customers will relate. As it turns out, 71% of influencers believe that an honest and authentic voice keeps their audience engaged. And there you have it, the history of influencer marketing. Catch next week’s post: Part II of the Influencer Marketing Series.




Influencer Orchestration Network

G Shift Labs