The Rise of Influencer marketing

With this piece, we take a look at the rise of Influencer marketing. We understand how it all started, the motivation factors, why this marketing may take over the traditional “Brand Ambassadors”.

Let’s dive right in the piece.

The history of Influencer Marketing

Marketing strategies have been rampant with known faces promoting brands and products for decades now. It may seem like recent development in the marketing industry. But in reality, the idea of leveraging a famous face to promote products or even schools of thought can be traced back to as early as the 1700s. The very first of what we may call the “original influencer” was Queen Charlotte who gave her majestic approval to a potter in 1765, thus starting off a trend that has only grown with time.

Over time, it has evolved to include famous fictional characters being used to endorse brands and their products. The oldest known record of a brand using a fictional character can be traced back to the 1930s when Coca-Cola used Santa Claus (yes, he is probably not real) during the Great Depression. The success of this campaign led to brands creating their own famous characters ex. Kool-Aid Man, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, etc.

Here are a few Indian examples: the ever endearing Parle-G girl, Amul girl, and something even as recent as the Vodafone ZooZoos (Vi can sense that a rather entertaining ad popped up in your mind just now).

Related: Take a look at the story of Amul in lockdown
Why did you read all of that?

Well, because even though we are living in the 2020s, the idea of associating a known, famous face with a brand is a foolproof method of ensuring a brand’s credibility. The term Influencer Marketing has a literal connotation and is completely different from Brand Ambassadors’ endorsements. One reason why celebrity endorsements started looking bleaker for brands has been the over the top lifestyles they lead. They bleakly resemble the masses, no matter how much you love the celebrity.

Naturally, the effect of using celebrity endorsements started to subside. As the efficacy of celebrity endorsements started declining, it was now the turn of reality TV stars to step into the limelight. Brands had started looking for more relatable names and more organic promotion methods rather than traditional ads. This came at a fortunate time of the YouTuber boom. Common names started blowing up on YouTube as ‘influencers’. These people weren’t celebrities in the traditional sense, but they had a bomb following.

The Rise of YouTube Influencers

Brands noticed that these YouTube personalities were more effective at endorsing products than the celebrities themselves. This was due to the fact that their content seemed more organic and trustworthy. It didn’t seem like a blatant paid promotion. Over the years with the rise in the number of digital platform influencers, brands have benefited highly. No doubt the celebrity endorsements have continued in full swing, we can see that they have also shifted from being just in traditional TV ads to being on digital platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Research studies as recent as 2019 have shown that almost 70% of consumers are highly influenced by the opinions of friends, family, and influencers.


Owing to the pandemic lockdowns all over the world, consumption of content on digital platforms has increased across all age groups. Almost half (48%) of total digital media users ended up doubling their content consumption in 2020. Even consumers of streaming services have shown a similar trend, with 47% of the total users almost doubling their content consumption. These numbers also are a result of an increase in micro-influencers i.e. digital personalities with 5,000 to 10,000 subscribers/followers, their numbers have also grown in number and popularity. These factors have contributed to YouTube seeing a great jump in terms of user time spent, almost 43% of the users spend more time on the platform vs non-lockdown times.

The brands have caught on to these stats and have used them to their advantage. They have leveraged the likeability, and trustworthiness of these influencers to create more targeted and impactful marketing campaigns. Campaigns like Marvel’s collaboration with Ashish Chanchlani for the promotion of Avengers: Endgame is the perfect examples of what effective influencer marketing looks like. Such campaigns are correctly targeted and positioned to make an impact on the desired target audience.

How do you find the right influencers?

But this does not mean picking any influencer would do the trick for your brand. It is important to segment influencers based on what you require out of them, and their interests as well as the content they put out. A tech influencer reviewing a new phone makes sense, but him reviewing a hair oil won’t, unless he has talked about his hair extensively in his videos. At the end of the day, brands are always racing to stay relevant to their audiences because the modern consumer is spoilt for choices. Brands can only go so far, and it is ultimately up to the consumer whether he/she wants to look at considering a brand or not.

Today it is influencer marketing that is making rounds as the mafia, tomorrow it could be something else. And with that, we hope you have gained more clarity on how exactly the idea of an influencer endorsing brands has now become a credible sector of the marketing industry.


This piece was penned by Mahek Mirchandani.  If you liked this piece, go ahead and share this piece on WhatsApp?

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