Interesting history of influencer marketing in Kenya

In spite of what many would like to think, the digital transformation did not birth the age of influencers, instead, technology revolutionised how brands engage with customers.

Crazy Kennar at the 2021 Pulse Influencer Awards

Way before people started posting selfies and videos all over the internet, celebrities were paid millions in advertising fees, but nowadays you don’t have to be a celebrity to tap into that revenue stream.

Pre-2002 If you think back to the days when the late Santa Claus was the face of the Coca cola Christmas campaign, or Michael Power was the Guinness superhero, you realise influencer marketing has a deeper history than many people realise.

In spite of what many would like to think, the digital transformation did not birth the age of influencers, instead, technology revolutionised how brands engage with customers.

As data and mobile phones became affordable between 2012 to 2016, more Kenyans were exposed to the internet and the consumption of online content increased. Before TikTok, Twitter and Instagram were cool, there was Facebook.

Online ‘celebrities’ started to emerge from Facebook communities and just as in any society certain peoples’ virtual presence stood out and were regarded as conversation starters and opinion shapers while the rest participated from the sidelines.

This phenomenon was witnessed on Twitter and Instagram which were steadily gaining popularity.

There was also the rise of the blogosphere as more Kenyans went online in search of information and entertainment.

Among the information many Kenyans sought online was to help make purchase decisions. In this way, more people began exchanging their experiences with certain products.

On Twitter, brands realised the power of leveraging technology, with international firms being among the early adopters of social media marketing.

One of the early examples of influencer marketing was a 2014 campaign by Unilever’s Aromat, which sparked a countrywide conversation and became part of social culture.

An Instagram survey in 2018 said 39% of respondents were more interested in a brand/product after watching an Instagram story that features it.

One of the pioneers of influencer marketing in Kenya is Timothy Kimani who is popularly known as Njugush.

His online popularity started to grow between 2016 and 2018 but it wasn’t until a client offered money to be featured in his skits that Njugush realised that there was an opportunity.

The years between 2019 and 2022 saw an explosion of influencers and content creators in Kenya, mainly from the entertainment industry.

This was partly driven by the expansion of technology, demand for alternative content and innovation by content creators.

Influencers were seen as more authentic brand representatives than average celebrities because of their close interaction with their followers.

Companies realised that depending on the objective of their marketing efforts, sometimes influencers were more valuable picks than celebrities.

Today, nearly every brand with a social media presence has adopted some form of influencer marketing.

The strategy has proven to be the most effective way for a company to build trust in its products and services by leveraging the genuine product endorsements of authentic, brand-aligned influencers.

The Pulse Influencer Awards has been set up to recognize and highlight bright lights in the influencer space in Kenya who are building active engaged communities around their niche or craft.

The Kenyan media landscape, like the rest of the world, is changing quickly. Digital media is the new mainstream, and as such, the role of influencers in driving this change cannot be over emphasized.

We will be awarding winners in 24 categories with the help of this year’s sponsors; Absa, Shop Zetu, Xiaomi, Little Cab and Safari Beauty at a gala held at Movenpick Hotel on October 15, 2022.

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