What influencer marketing looked like in 1754!

  • January 27, 2022
  • Reading time: 2 min

Think of a catalogue. What comes to mind? Twentieth century beauties such as the Argos catalogue and the Next Directory?

Allow us to introduce you to The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director by the famed furniture designer Thomas Chippendale. Thomas Chippendale was born into a wood working family. After relocating to London and working as a cabinet maker, he had the brilliant, but very expensive, idea of a trade catalogue.

Flick through the catalogue here

A trade catalogue may not sound sexy or cutting edge, but dearest reader, we assure you it was.

Chippendale published what is commonly known as The Director to attract business and establish his reputation. This is where we can start unwinding his creative marketing genius.

Catalogues, especially furniture catalogues, were few and far between at the time. The cost to produce something like The Director was huge. Not only did Chippendale have first mover advantage with his incredibly comprehensive catalogue, he had an ace up his sleeve: a strategy we now call influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing in 1754? Poppycock!

As well as having 161 engraved plates of designs of a wider range of popular furniture in Gothic, Chinese, and Rococo styles (which would prove to be very fashionable) The Director contained a printed list of subscribers that included clients and other cabinetmakers in London. At the time newspapers were the media of the day. So, imagine the prestige of being include in a list that included Dukes, Earls, Lords, Ladies, Countesses, and Sirs. La-di-da!

The Director was an instant success. So much so, it was reissued in 1755, and again in 1762 with additional plates in the new and very popular Neo-classical style. And we can assume an updated subscribers list!

Why include other cabinet-makers though?

We all know that imitation is flattery. Thomas Chippendale knew that his designs would be copied, so instead of trying to fight that fact, he gave the designs to the community. This time a shrewd B2B marketing move! Now the (wealthy) masses could get Chippendale style furniture from a host of suppliers.

While that sounds like it could cannibalise his income, Chippendale’s stock rose so much that he often received large-scale commissions. Aristocrats hired him to decorate their stately homes and design one-off pieces that weren’t in The Director. Chippendale played the long game.

What can we learn from Thomas Chippendale?

  1. Be brave. First mover advantage cannot be under-estimated. Chippendale didn’t have the most initiative product. But he had a ballsy marketing strategy.
  2. Think outside the box. Including three pages of subscriber’s names was genius. Customer advocacy is a valuable weapon in your marketing.
  3. When it comes to brand, always consider playing the long game. Copycat products won’t beat originals if you get your brand strategy right.

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