An earliest example of influencer marketing would be Nancy Green who became the face of the popular ready-made pancake mix Aunt Jemima in 1890. She was the face of the brand until 1923, when she died unexpectedly in an auto accident. Josiah Wedgwood also designed and gave a tea set to the Queen Charlotte of England back in 1760. One could argue that the queen was an influencer since Wedgwood’s gesture positioned his brand to be royalty-approved and in a luxury class of its own. Wedgwood products still enjoy the same reputation till today. Another old favourite is Tony the Tiger, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot. Initially designed in 1952, Tony also became animated and was used for commercials. He withstood copycats and a variation of him is still used today on cereal boxes.
For nearly 50 years, at a time when smoking was still acceptable to many and advertising permitted, the Marlboro Man was familiar and popular as his face represented masculinity and toughness to many. By 2010, Facebook and social media began showing its face and rise in popularity. Amazon was one of the first brands to leverage this opportunity, encouraging its customers to use Facebook to display not only their joy, but their gifts. Recommendations from friends and family and Facebook notifications about upcoming events like birthdays and anniversaries woke up the rest of the marketing community to the power of social media influencers.
In today’s marketing, brands have an active presence on social media with scope for improvement in content, engagement, and influencer marketing (IM) strategy. The best brands leverage a more coordinated multi-platform marketing approach, making full use of each platforms’ unique features. On Instagram, there are posts, stories, hashtags, and competitions to emphasise brand experience, with paid media to target relevant audiences. On YouTube, tech influencers review and highlight key selling points. Brands can also share videos and reviews on Facebook to raise brand prestige and paid media to target relevant audiences.
A Statista survey reveals that Instagram users are distributed globally by age, with users between 18 and 24 years old accounting for 30% of the total users, and users 25 – 34 years old accounting for 35% of users. Hence, around two-thirds of global users are young people, which means that Instagram is very popular among millennials. 90% of millennials trust online reviews as they trust friends and family, while friends’ opinions directly lead to the purchase decision of 80% of consumers on social media. Besides, millennials have higher disposable income and consumption levels, which become a top priority for influencer marketing. A study by Twitter and Annalect indicate that 40% of Twitter users are guided by tweets from influencers leading to direct purchase.
With the popularity of the internet, the introduction of a new class of ‘celebrities’ or influencers have forced marketers to adapt to this new reality. Because of their reach and influence, these influencers wield enormous power when they review products, brands, or just talk about a service or a product. Some major influencers in Nigeria include Fisayo Fosudo, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Noble Igwe, Tunde Ednut, Kayode Abass, and Japheth Omojuwa. These influencers have built a large and loyal following on social media and are now leveraging on their platforms to promote brands, causes, and ideologies to their thousands of loyal and dedicated followers.