"Buffalo Bill Applauds the Banisher of Burglar Fear," a 1910 Savage Arms advertisement boldly states. An illustration of the 10-shot pocket automatic "fires" dramatically into the text.
"Today," the ad quotes Buffalo Bill himself, "I took [my] old revolver and the Savage Automatic out and fired each fifty times, making, to my surprise, a much better score with the Savage than I could with my old pet gun."
"When the most famous shot living frankly says that the Savage Automatic outshot his old pet revolver, what does that prove?" the next line asks the reader.
W. F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody was one of Savage Arm's earliest spokesmen. Although the use of spokespeople seems to be a more recent trend in history, companies have actually been using this influential tactic to sell products for centuries. In the 1760s, Wedgwood heavily relied upon royal endorsements to market and sell their pottery and chinaware. ("If it's good enough for the queen, it's good enough for me!")
When you think of spokespeople, what faces pop into your mind? Hilarious William Shatner for Priceline.com, or inspiring Michael Jordan for Nike or maybe quirky Tina Fey for American Express? Leveraging the power of celebrity clout, brand ambassadors can make truly valuable connections with audiences. Their influence is an impressive testament to both word-of-mouth marketing and the power of human connections.
The Genuine Article
With the rise of social media, companies are capitalizing on a new trend, a spin-off of the spokesperson--the "brand influencer." While many brand influencers are celebrities, in recent years, "regular" people have found internet fame thanks to their ability to reach thousands or millions of viewers via platforms like Instagram and YouTube. What often starts as a blog side project or a product review YouTube channel can quickly turn into a social empire with thousands of followers.
This exposure and influence is a powerful tool for brands to capitalize on. One company sends a popular Instagramer new clothes from their latest line to model. She wears them proudly in several photos as she casually goes throughout her day (linking to the brand's online store, of course). Another company sends new golf clubs to a YouTuber who tests them out onscreen, praising their quality and durability. Viewers don't realize they're being advertised to, but the result is the same nonetheless. The company gains more followers and exposure, and so does the brand...