Influencer marketing a new phenomenon since 1840

Influencer marketing, It’s been a while (well not that long) since something has come along and divided opinion so radically amongst content creators, marketers and those in the digital marketing sector.  Strange given that something so straightforward in its explanation and definition can offer so many wide ranging views.

Let’s start by looking at the definition of an influencer, let’s go with Oxfords definition

(mass noun) The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
1.1 The power to shape policy or ensure favourable treatment from someone, especially through status, contacts, or wealth.

A person or thing with the capacity to have an influence on someone or something.

We’ll fix on the 1.2 – A person or thing with the capacity to have an influence on someone or something, which is why “word of mouth” has always been the earliest form of influence, humans have been bartering and selling to each other since we lived in caves.  Over the last few hundred years, sports stars, actors and actresses have endorsed products countless times, but it was the royal family who began the trend for “influencer marketing” no seriously! The biggest celebrities of the day were the royals, their influence was spread across the globe by the “British Empire” 

In 1840 the royal warrant was established, A Royal Warrant of Appointment is a mark of recognition of those who have supplied goods or services to the Households of HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh or HRH The Prince of Wales for at least five years, and who have an ongoing trading arrangement!

No greater thing for a brand to have the royal thumbs up, so the royal family has been using their influence since the early 1800’s so this is an established market then? surely as we’ve been seeing it for at least 200 years there should be no confusion?

Yeah, you would think so, but here is the issue, fast forward and the speed of technology, change in user habits and barriers to audiences have all been removed.  Now where journalists, TV presenters, performing arts and sports stars of our time used to be the reserve of holding influence almost anyone can amass a large social media following and not always legitimately (those who buy followers)

I am no fan of red tape but here especially regulation is lacking, in any other form of advertising or marketing buyers can usually get a good steer on how well a campaign is going to do by looking at the audience breakdown, user metrics such as platform used, frequency of engagement, type of content consumed, although with influencer marketing  we don’t yet have an industry standard to rely on (see for print or Nielsen ratings) and it is here without common benchmarks for business owners especially it can feel a little like the wild west.  Is the solution regulation, I am nit sure but certainly self-regulation from those who do provide value for marketers is essential to protect the good name they have built up and not be tarred with the same brush.

 So what’s the issue with large numbers?

Nothing the matter with large numbers, especially if you are into consumer marketing media, technology, music, sport, food, fitness, travel, pets and gaming have lots of highly active influencers and “Brand Advocates” in fact you could argue the higher the number of followers the bigger the reach, which is great.  Even at this level the marketing only works truly if the content is believable if you have the right audience and the audience engage.  The big problem goes back to the issue of measuring, and this is something that has always existed in advertising especially back in the days of print, radio, and TV.  The advent of digital has to a degree made this easier tracking links etc but with social, it’s not always clear cut and this causes some of the issues.

We often make the assumption that a large number of followers equates to the ability to influence, it really does not, at best a large number of follower gives you the ability to raise awareness.  However, if you want to raise awareness are their better avenues that can be more trackable and give you the power to have greater control over the audience you reach? such as advertising?

Influence is exactly that, the ability to influence another person to make a decision, in this instance buy something.  Is the Queen an influencer? for some yes, if it’s good enough for her it will be for them.

Should we not use influencer marketing?

There are lots of great examples of influencer marketing, and used properly it can be an effective tool, more so in niche markets where individuals have built expertise in a sector and have earned trust and respect (especially in B2B) You only have to google to see countless “successful” marketing campaigns with product placed in pictures taken by influencers, not for me though one of the best examples I have come across was the simple “Spotify” campaign #ThatSongWhen which is a few years old now but was highly engaging for music influencers and advocates alike.


There are loads of great campaigns to look at, and Nike had some definitive stats from their work with Christiano Ronaldo over the 2015 campaign, of course, you will also find loads of examples of where it has gone wrong.  before you jump on either side of the fence do your own research.


What about the big debate?

The debate will continue, that I am sure, for now though take away these few key points

  • Make sure the audience you are trying to target is the right one, do your homework and check out engagement levels, is it the right audience for you?
  • What content is going to be produced, how often, and what is the context
  • Is this the best way to spend money for this particular campaign, are you better of with other forms of advertising?
  • Are your expectations realistic?


We will be covering Influencer Marketing in-depth at Social Day London on the 16th June, Join agencies and Influencers who face questions from our audience, we have pulled together a panel of differing views and specifically those who have been working in this sector for the last few years.

What is influencer marketing

How should it be used

difference between Influencer marketing and Brand Advocates

How to avoid the cowboys

Measuring Retun on Investment

To get the answers to these questions make sure you are part of the debate – book your ticket today 


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