When it comes to influencer marketing, we usually think of it as a fairly recent or even cutting-edge innovation. However, when you consider what’s at its heart, influencer marketing’s roots date back well over 1,000 years.
The way successful professionals practice influencer marketing is undoubtedly innovative and thoroughly modern, yet for more than a millennia we’ve had the trust, expertise, and wisdom that meld together to allow one person to hold influence over another.
There’s a reason influencer marketing has become one of the most powerful methods to build trust, create strong communications, and lasting professional relationships that it’s becoming more renowned for every day. That reason centers on fundamental human emotions and our innate desire to gain wisdom from people we trust — primal elements that apply equally to life and marketing that date from our earliest written history.
Let’s take a look at ten influencer marketing lessons by great figures from each of the past ten centuries, which you can you to boost your business today, in 2020, and well beyond.
#1 — 1000 to 1099 — Lessons from Hugh of Saint-Victor
Eleventh-century Saxon theologian and writer Hugh of Saint-Victor offers our list’s earliest insights into what would nearly 1,000 years later become the practice of influencer marketing. “Omnia disce, postea videbis nihil esse superfluum,” Hugh wrote, translated as:“Learn everything. Later you will see that nothing is superfluous.” — Hugh of Saint-Victor Click To Tweet
Each of the many parts that work together in an influencer marketing campaign will increase the overall success of the effort if they are as experienced as possible — experts who have made it a point to learn as much as they can in an ongoing process.
Our world of social media, search, content marketing and other marketing technologies presents us with a virtually unlimited selection of new things to learn, so taking Saint-Victor’s advice and being a lifelong learner is a great way to continually boost your influencer marketing prowess.
#2 — 1100 to 1199 — Lessons from Hildegard von Bingen
Writer, composer and philosopher Hildegard of Bingen pushed through numerous boundaries during her life, and became Saint Hildegard.
Her insights echo still to this day, and if we listen closely we can learn much about marketing and life from her writings.“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” — Hildegard von Bingen Click To Tweet
Taking a stand with clearly-defined messaging that showcases who you are and what you do well can go a long way in marketing today. As von Bingen urges, marketers should strive to push to the outer boundaries of digital messaging, and influencer marketing is an efficient and effective way to take that leap.
#3 — 1200 to 1299 — Lessons from Aquinas
Thirteenth century influencer Thomas Aquinas was not only a philosopher and theologian, but an innovator in many ways that still strike a powerful chord today.“It is better to illuminate than merely to shine to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.” — Thomas Aquinas Click To Tweet
The best marketers have a knack for helping others, and not just by solving the next-in-line problem, but also by sharing insight that will help their clients and associates in the long run, elevating and as Aquinas says illuminating through well-thought-out assistance.
#4 — 1300 to 1399 — Lessons from Chaucer
Great poet of the Middle Ages Geoffrey Chaucer, best known for “The Canterbury Tales,” left writing that to this day serves to inspire us to strive for newfound heights, such as in the following quote.“Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.” — Geoffrey Chaucer Click To Tweet
Overcoming the fear and other challenges of beginning a new influencer marketing program or expanding an existing one is required to reach greater success, and although the intricacies can seem daunting at times, Chaucer’s helpful reminder to venture forth nonetheless rings true today perhaps more than ever.
#5 — 1400 to 1499 — Lessons from Copernicus
Besides formulating that the Sun is at the center of the universe, Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus left many insights that we can learn from and integrate into our own influencer marketing strategies.“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” — Copernicus Click To Tweet
The best marketers don’t hesitate to say when they don’t know something, and enthusiastically recommend others in their professional network who do have the particular skills needed.
#6 — 1500 to 1599 — Lessons from Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s words and wisdom have been delighting and inspiring people for over 400 years, and the lessons the bard can teach us about influencer marketing are many.“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts.” — William Shakespeare Click To Tweet
The Web has made the world’s stage accessible to all, and it’s in this digital venue today’s marketers hold multiple roles in ever-changing marketing endeavors. It’s important to recognize the many new relationships marketers will form throughout their careers, bringing with them new opportunities, as well as the professional relationships that are bound to shift, wane, and end — all an inherent part of the great circle of marketing life.
#7 — 1600 to 1699 — Lessons from Galileo
Never a marketer by trade, Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer Galileo nonetheless contributed much to the world including lessons that we can apply to today’s influencer marketing.“Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured.” — Galileo Click To Tweet
Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) is an important part of influencer marketing, in order to gauge the success of every part of a campaign from beginning to end.
#8 — 1700 to 1799 — Lessons from Wordsworth
English poet William Wordsworth wrote much that applies to being a good marketer in today’s busy world.“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” — William Wordsworth Click To Tweet
Our paper today is almost entirely of the digital variety, however Wordsworth’s adage is a valuable reminder that what we write in the course of our marketing campaigns is best when it comes directly from the heart.
When seeking out experts to take part in influencer marketing initiatives, those who are filled with the genuine “breathings” of their hearts should undoubtedly be among the top choices for consideration.
#9 — 1800 to 1899 — Lessons from P. T. Barnum
During his life famed showman and businessman Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and became known as one of the greatest promoters the world has seen.
Barnum espoused almost countless witticisms, and although he’s usually associated with a quote that has never been definitively linked to him — “There’s a sucker born every minute.” — he also had plenty to say about marketing and business success.“The possession of a perfect knowledge of your business is an absolute necessity in order to insure success.” — P. T. Barnum Click To Tweet
This “perfect knowledge” is precisely what “best-answer content” seeks to provide today, and plays a crucial role in successful influencer marketing campaigns.
Barnum himself would likely have been a fan of an interactive influencer marketing digital asset we recently created for the Content Marketing World conference, featuring a big-top theme and content from conference speakers, as shown below:
#10 — 1900 to 1999 — Lessons from David Ogilvy
Widely known as the “Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy’s marketing manifesto centered around creative brilliance, research, actual results for clients, and professional discipline — all ingredients that apply to today’s successful influencer marketing.“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.” — David Ogilvy Click To Tweet
Providing information in influencer marketing means delivering best-answer content — definitive information presented in a clear message by an expert we trust.
Ogilvy famously encouraged clear, smart marketing messages created as if they were for your own husband or wife.
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her,” Ogilvy said.
Bonus — 2000 to 2019 — Lessons from Bill Gates
When I started out with my first computer in 1984 Bill Gates’ young company was a bitter rival to the Commodore computers I used, but over the years I’ve had nothing but increasing admiration for him and the impact he’s had that has transcended his firm, especially with the philanthropic efforts of the non-profit organizations he and his wife Melinda operate.“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates @BillGates Click To Tweet
Empowering others is something that influencer marketing does particularly well, so I think Gates’ words — and those we’ve examined from Hugh of Saint-Victor, Hildegard von Bingen, Thomas Aquinas, Geoffrey Chaucer, Nicolaus Copernicus, Shakespeare, Galileo, William Wordsworth, P. T. Barnum, and David Ogilvy are all relevant, and represent an important message as we look ahead just a few months to 2020.
With enough time, staff, and dedication most brands can build their own successful ongoing influencer marketing strategy, while others may find it more efficient and practical to partner with a professional marketing agency highly skilled in the area.
TopRank Marketing had the honor of being named by Forrester as the only B2B marketing agency offering influencer marketing as a top capability in its “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report.”