By Briggy Anderson

Influencers have been around a lot longer than we like to think – and having the right person on your brand’s side can work wonders for your health promotion campaign.

The influencer, so prominent on social media these days, is far from being a marketing invention for the internet age.

Even back in the Victorian era, there were high-profile – if unlikely sounding – people with the ability and profile to make or break a health product. Although what’s described as a health marketing campaign has changed a bit since then.

Take, for example, Pope Leo XIII. He liked a little tipple, it’s safe to say. Particularly one laced with revitalising … erm … cocaine. Vin Mariani was not the type of product that gets much of a health promotion budget these days.

Indeed, the Holy Father was so fond of Vin Mariani – a mix of wine and cocaine – that he gave it a Vatican gold medal and appeared in its advertising. A Pope in advertising media sounds ridiculous in 2018. But this was in 1863.

Vin Mariani’s popularity soared. They even put more cocaine in it for the export market. After all, if the Pope was backing its “health-boosting” powers, it had to be good, right, so more was better, right, so we should open another bottle, right? 

Another fan of Vin Mariani was Queen Victoria and she, if anybody, was a super-influencer, a marketing behemoth. Think Kylie Jenner wiping $1billion off Snapchat’s value with one tweet, only with a crown and an empire.

During Victoria’s reign, she doled out Royal Warrants to products and services she liked. The number rapidly rose to 2000 and the London Gazette began publishing an annual list of her favoured suppliers. This was the Holy Grail of endorsements and those Royal Coats of Arms are still proudly displayed on packaging and premises by businesses to this day.

Of course, there are some big names whose bad decisions have cost them big money deals as brands quickly rethought their health marketing strategies.

Who could blame fitness firms and sportswear giants for turning their backs on Lance Armstrong – the cyclist who beat cancer to win the Tour de France again and again and again – when he was exposed as a drug cheat?

So getting the right ambassador can really affect the result for your business. I had the pleasure of working with former Corrie star Amanda Barrie on a health promotion campaign based on the impact of hearing loss. Getting her onboard was a great decision.

The slow decline and subtlety of symptoms mean encouraging people to seek advice about the condition can be challenging.

Normalising hearing health and making it part of the nation’s wellness management is the mission of Specsavers Audiologists.

Our campaign saw Amanda share her own personal experience. Her exuberant personality and willingness to talk candidly – particularly about her struggle to hear in the Big Brother House – and her journey to get help, created uplifting and emotive content. 

The results of our health marketing campaign speak for themselves. We achieved fantastic national press coverage reaching more than 112 million people in The Mail on Sunday, Mail Online, Daily Express, Express online, Sunday People, Mirror online and Prima online. It’s still getting coverage in regional and local papers this week. 

All of this great media exposure was further bolstered by a social media campaign featuring Amanda sharing her experience with a piece to camera.

So what were the ingredients of our success?

No smoke and mirrors here – our approach was simple. Impeccable media intuition, great contacts and a passion for health, supported by the right blend of ambassador, angle and timing.

So choose your influencer well. The results can be breathtaking.


We know a lot about health. To speak to the health marketing experts, call us on 0800 612 9890.