MVP Software Development: What, Why, and How
MVP Software Development: What, Why, and How

The Evolution of Influencer Marketing: From Royals to Social Media Giants


Influencer marketing has become a cornerstone of modern marketing strategies, helping companies enhance their brands, boost conversions, and extend their reach. In 2020, a staggering 93% of marketers actively engaged in influencer marketing, with 69.8% planning to increase their budgets for it. In this comprehensive exploration of influencer marketing’s history, we will delve into its origins and its transformation into the powerhouse it is today.

Defining Influencers and Influencer Marketing

Before we journey through the history of influencer marketing, let’s establish clear definitions. An influencer, in the realm of marketing, is an individual capable of influencing the purchasing decisions of potential buyers. These influencers can range from celebrities, athletes, public figures, fictional characters, to even trusted friends. The landscape of influencers has evolved with the rise of social media, where anyone with a substantial following can claim influencer status. Influencer marketing, on the other hand, refers to brands collaborating with influencers to promote their products or services. This approach capitalizes on the trust consumers place in recommendations from friends, family, and trusted advisors, making influencer marketing a potent strategy.

The Journey Begins: Influencer Marketing in the 18th Century

The 1760s: Royal Endorsements Influencer marketing’s roots can be traced back to the 1760s when King George III of the United Kingdom endorsed the pottery of Josiah Wedgwood, effectively giving his royal seal of approval. This early example demonstrates the power of influencer marketing, as Mr. Wedgwood leveraged the King’s support to promote his products and enhance brand awareness.

The Early 20th Century: Pioneering Celebrity Endorsements

1905: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Murad Cigarettes In 1905, Murad Cigarettes, a Turkish brand, employed Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a silent film actor, in their influencer marketing campaign. This milestone highlights the effectiveness of using celebrities to endorse products or services.

The 1930s: Shaping Holiday Traditions

1931: Santa and Coca-Cola Coca-Cola played a pivotal role in influencer marketing when they introduced the image of Santa Claus in their 1931 advertisements. Santa, with his endearing persona and red attire, emotionally connected with consumers. While Coca-Cola did not invent Santa Claus, they significantly contributed to shaping the character as we know it today, emphasizing warmth and cheer.

The Mid-20th Century: The Macho Marlboro Man

The 1950s: Marlboro Man The Marlboro Man, portrayed by various actors, epitomized the image of a rugged, masculine smoker. Despite the health concerns surrounding smoking, the Marlboro Man substantially increased cigarette sales, showcasing the influential power of this character.

The 1970s: Mikey Likes It

In the 1970s, Quaker Oats featured the fictional character Mikey in their iconic Life cereal commercial. This advertisement, which ran for 13 years, demonstrates the enduring impact of influencer marketing and its recognition in the advertising industry.

The 1990s: Supermodel Stardom

Cindy Crawford and Pepsi In 1992, Pepsi capitalized on supermodel Cindy Crawford’s fame in a memorable Super Bowl commercial. This campaign underscored the effectiveness of pairing celebrities with brands, leaving a lasting impression on viewers. Cindy Crawford later reprised her role in a 2018 Super Bowl commercial.

The 21st Century: A Digital Revolution

2010: Old Spice Man In 2010, Old Spice orchestrated a highly successful influencer marketing campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa, a former NFL star. The humorous “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad went viral, doubling Old Spice’s sales and significantly boosting website traffic. This campaign marked a turning point in influencer marketing’s modern era.

The Social Media Revolution

The 2010s: Social Media’s Dominance While the emergence of social media influencers lacks a specific starting point, the impact of social media on influencer marketing cannot be overstated. Platforms like Instagram have become crucial for product discovery, with 60% of users crediting Instagram for this. Social media has democratized influencer status, allowing friends and ordinary individuals to play pivotal roles in marketing. Platforms like Facebook have even facilitated product visibility among friends through user-connected purchases.

The Rise of Stories In the age of “influence fatigue,” short and authentic content has become essential. Instagram stories, for instance, have captured audience attention, with 39% of respondents expressing increased interest in products featured in these stories. Stories create a gateway to two-way dialogues, offering a solution to combat audience exhaustion.


Influencer marketing has evolved from royal endorsements in the 18th century to the digital age of social media dominance. Through historical milestones and innovative campaigns, influencer marketing has proven its enduring efficacy in connecting brands with consumers. In today’s interconnected world, influencer marketing continues to adapt and thrive, cementing its position as a cornerstone of modern marketing strategies.

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