Influencer Marketing is the best option nowadays, for brands to reach out to their set of target audiences. Every brand wants to leverage this and not shy away from possibly the best strategy which is also easy on their wallets. But this didn’t happen overnight. Though it might seem like a strategy of modern times, after the advent of the internet and social media, surprisingly, the origin of influencer marketing goes way beyond.
The evolution of influencer marketing:
Phase 1: The Origins
Since the 18th century, marketers have witnessed the power of influencers. Josiah Wedgwood was a British potter whose magnificent artwork gained Queen Charlotte’s approval in 1765, which even earned him the official title of “Her Majesty’s Potter”. Knowing that the Queen was the quintessential influencer at the time, Wedgwood rightfully leveraged her popularity and status to promote her pottery as “Queensware”, the world’s first luxury brand. It became an instant hit then, enthusing people to buy his items.
Phase 2: Reality touch of fictional characters
The following era exploded with multiple fictional and fantasy characters, and they tinkered with the minds of the audience. The best example, in this case, is the use of Santa Claus by Coca-Cola in 1932. To boost beverage sales during the Great Depression, Coca-Cola used the cheerful image of Santa Claus to convey joy during an otherwise miserable period , focusing on the target audience and providing them with a joyous moment even during the suffering.
In the 1970s, brands used fictional characters like “Little Mikey” from Quaker Oats to influence consumer decisions. In the brand’s famous ad, titled “Mikey Likes It”, a tough guy named Mikey is shown enjoying the life of Quaker Cereal Oats. The brand wanted the target audience to identify with the guy and think: if Mikey is going to like it, I’m going to like it surely. The ad immediately captured the wild imagination of end consumers and ruled the television world for 13 years!
Phase 3: Endorsement of Celebrities
Then came the celebrity mentions. Compared to fictional characters, these were real-life, big-time celebrities with a huge fan following. Their massive appeal and popularity among the audience were powerful enough to sway the customers to flock to the brands. One such example would be Nike and Pepsi, they have started partnering with celebrities to endorse their products, in return for publicity.
Though it started as a big bang, it was difficult to follow through as people were unable to relate to it in their day-to-day lives.
Phase 4: Reality Television
Reality TV shows were truly the next level of promotional strategy at that time. What brought real life and screen life together were reality TV shows like, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Bachelors, and many more. Whether the audience publicly admits it, there was a huge influence and attraction towards the larger-than-life personalities of reality TV. Because these shows were based on promoting and projecting real-life situations, stars were seen as more connectable and authentic than mainstream celebrities to some extent. Along with their overnight fame and increased viewer engagement, reality TV personalities paved the way for its successor- social media.
Phase 5: Modern-day Influencer Marketing
With the dominance of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — the great wall of entry barrier to the glamour world broke down. Everyone now has a fair chance of entering the life of fame and glory, provided they can put together something interesting, authentic, and unique. Influencers are the closest to real-life, as they come from us, not from any distant class who might be unapproachable.