Do our greatest marketing influencers date back to the 1930s?

By our News Team | 2023

Ronaldo has over 500-million social media followers, but he’s arguably far from being the most enduringly successful influencer to date.

Who were the first influencers? Gen Zeders and Millennials will likely turn to the early years of social media for the answer. But influencer marketing predates digital technology by decades, perhaps centuries.

Santa Claus – or Father Christmas if you prefer – is one such example. The chubby, jolly old man in his red and white suit was actually a creation by Coca-Cola in 1931 to promote its brand.

Influencer Marketing

Long-forgotten actors and actresses were the ‘influencers’ who first made shopping trolleys acceptable in the 1930s. Photo credit: Unknown

Certainly, there was already a sometimes slightly sinister figure from European folklore known by various names including Saint Nicholas and Sinterklaas. But the loveable red-and-white clad figure of today was purely a marketing creation and, given his enduring global popularity, remains arguably the most successful influencer to date.

Influencers have made many other commercial projects possible over the years. The humble and ubiquitous shopping trolley, for example, owes its success to a clever influencer strategy that also dates back to the 1930s.

How influencers ‘pushed’ the shopping trolley

In a LinkedIn post this week – headlined ‘Influencers campaigns date back to 1937’ – the Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis, Jason Goldberg, emphasised how Sylvan Goldman, a successful US-based retail guru of the era, introduced shopping carts to his store in an effort to get customers to buy more items.

Surprisingly, though, people were sceptical. Women thought they were too similar to baby prams and men though they were too effeminate as, at that time, pushing prams was the preserve of mothers and grandmothers.

Undaunted, Goldman hired actors and actress of varying ages to stroll around his store using the shopping trolleys. This normalised the behaviour and soon everyone was doing it. The unsung and long-forgotten actors and actresses who pushed those first shopping trolleys were, in fact, mega-influencers for a trend that persists more than 80 years later!

Noted Wired magazine in a January 2023 article: “The gimmick ended up paying off – a good reminder that influencer marketing is nothing new.”

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.