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History Of Influencer Marketing: Starting from the 1890’s

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History Of Influencer Marketing: Starting from the 1890’s

Influencer marketing has become one of the most trending topics in marketing over the last few years. Brands are shelling out thousands of dollars to position their products into the feeds of Influencers with large followings. The phrase influencer also gets thrown around often, as many consumers believe that an influencer is an individual with a large following. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth, but before discussing the true value of an influencer, let’s do a quick history lesson about the term influencer.

Influencer marketing is not a new trend, in fact, it dates back to the late 19th century. So, what exactly is an influencer? An influencer is an individual or a brand that has built a large following. However, an influencer also must be able to trigger actions or purchasing decisions from consumers or “followers.” If part two doesn’t exist, then that individual or brand simply has fans, or even less valuable, they participated in purchasing fake followers or have joined the ever-popular “giveaway” movement where their following has grown because of incentivization.

Influencers date back to the 1890s when Nancy Green was hired to be the face of Aunt Jemima. Her branding made the famous pancake mix an identity and Nancy Green is believed to be the first African American model to influence buyers.

In 1905, Fatty Arbuckle, a famous silent film actor who didn’t actually smoke cigarettes, endorsed Murad Cigarettes. In this era, consumers saw the glamorous life that many of these celebrities lived and since most were living very simple lives, they rushed to the stores to emulate their favorite stars.

If your favorite celebrity loved cigarettes, then it must be good enough for a common person, right?

In 1931, Santa Claus became the face of Coca-Cola, launching a generation of avid soda drinkers while creating a warm bond between Coca-Cola and the generational Christmas figurehead.

In the early 1950s, the Marlboro man came along. The trendy and macho, horse riding celebrity-branded cigarettes with masculinity and started a generation of smokers that still lives to this day.

Also, in the 1950s, kids everywhere were greeted every morning by the infamous character, Tony the Tiger, who is still synonymous with Kelloggs and cereal.

The history of influencer marketing is important because many people believe that influencer marketing was created by the rise of Instagram. Consumers have been influenced by celebrities since the beginning of commercial products, the difference is the mediums and the platform where those celebrities have followings.

Today’s influencers live on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and SnapChat. If you are reading this, you likely have heard enough about the Kardashians, Jenners and many other famous names that have created empires through social media. While influencers with large, engaged followings will always be valuable to brands, there are growing concerns that Instagram’s algorithms are shifting towards a more “pay to play” model, similar to Facebook. Instagram is well aware that many of those advertising dollars are being sent directly to influencers, and Instagram wants their cut. Influencers are already starting to complain that only a small percentage of their followers are seeing their posts, and I predict this percentage will only continue to decrease.

Where does influencer marketing go from here? We will learn a lot over the next 12-18 months. As of now, Podcasting is one of the few mediums where algorithms don’t block subscribers/followers from seeing content, leading me to believe that many influencers will continue to start podcasts as a platform to engage and communicate with their audience.

Hi, I'm Carson! Founder of Giant Voices Media and Shining Icon Publishing. I have been featured in Nasdaq, Yahoo Finance, MSNBC, and the NY Journal for my work in influencer marketing and podcast marketing. Everyday we are innovating how brands & podcasts break through the noise and create massive awareness online. I love sports, writing, traveling and most importantly, meeting new people. If I can answer any questions or provide more insights specific to your needs, always reach out!

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