Monday, August 8, 2016

What Influencers Were Like A 100 Years Before YouTube

Endorsements are as old as medieval times.  Your favorite blogger wasn’t the world’s first influencer. Going back as early as medieval times, tradespeople curtsied for the favor of their royal family. In other words, professionals asked for the endorsements of the biggest influencers around - Kings and Queens.
The idea that brand influencers are a new form of marketing is completely bananas. Influencers and endorsements didn’t emerge with Mad Men, social media or an App.

The Royal Warrant is a form of endorsement by the Royal Family for businesses service them. It goes back as early as 1155. During the 15th century royal tradespeople were recognized as having a Royal Warrant of Appointment. In a similar style,  King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden granted Christian Bjelland Company "special royal permission" to use his name and portrait on their brand of sardines in 1902. The Stavanger Preserving Company, a Norwegian canning company had already been exporting sardines since1873. From that relationship emerged, “By Special Royal Permission, King Oscar Brand Sardines, Choicest Fish Brisling produced in purest Olive Oil". 

On the original label, King Oscar looks very different from the modern illustration that is on every can of King Oscar sardines today. The earlier depiction of King Oscar makes him look weathered, gaunt and one might even go as far as to say, malnourished. The King wasn’t happy.  The Christian Bjelland & Company updated the sardine packaging by giving Oscar a more "King-like” image, making the brand look more “Royal”. They gave him wider shoulder, fuller hair, mustache and beard. The new image is also cropped to take up a large area of the sardine tin. The new depiction of the King was an important image physiologically among sea merchants, sailors and navy men leading into WWI.

Sardines rose to their highest demand during World War I. Canned sardines were a growing source for food for merchant fleets due to their extended shelf-life. There were over 100 canneries that emerged in Norway from 1873 to about 1919.  Stavanger produced over 350 million cans of sardines. During this time there were lawsuits over the rights to use the name “sardines”. Canneries had to use alternative terms such as “smoked  bristling” or “smoked herring” throughout Europe. There were innovations resulting in competitive differences in the smoking and canning process. Post WWI many canneries struggled to stay open with the lack of demand. Government regulation set in over canneries and sustaining the supply chain in Norway became difficult. By 1968 only 13 remained.

Today King Oscar sardines are a market leader with the highest quality and priced sardines.  Without sardines would we remember King Oscar? Without King Oscar would we still be eating canned sardines? Influence doesn’t last long without a great product. A great product won’t last beyond the life of its creator without a powerful influencer.

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authorHi. I’m Daisi. I’m a creative media personality (Modelpreneur) who’s helping more people understand the relationship between media and culture. My focus is on social media specifically (i.e. technology, communication, etc.); and how they impact culture and society.