Surrogate Marketing

Surrogate marketing is a promotion strategy used to promote products in the market that are banned, like Alcohol and Cigarettes. These products are advertised in a hidden or indirect manner. Surrogate means ‘Substitute” which means that the surrogate product can either resemble the original product or be a completely different product. When consumers look at such ads, they associate them with Prohibited Products. It is legal to manufacture and sell liquor freely, but it is illegal to advertise through public media.

Objectives of Surrogate Marketing:

The real objective of Surrogate Marketing is to communicate or promote a product successfully among makers and customers all together.

  • Informational: To inform people or customers in general, about the introduction of new products, updates or changes in existing products or changes identified with the product, data about new offers, etc. 
  • Persuasive: To expand the interest for existing products and convince new customers to purchase and make the existing clients for repurchases, maintaining the brand in the brain of the customer. 
  • A reminder or notification: To help customers to remember the presence of the product and the promotional activities in progress. 

Evolution of Surrogate Marketing:

The evolution of Surrogate Marketing happened in Britain when housewives started protesting liquor advertisements that provoked their husbands. In India, after extensive surveys, it was found that such liquor ads had a direct influence on the consumer’s buying behaviour. From the year 1995, the cable TV regulation act banned liquor and cigarette advertisements and eventually in India adopted surrogate marketing/advertisements. 

In India, Surrogate advertisements/marketing are done principally in the tobacco and alcohol industry. This is an immediate outcome of the restriction on direct notices of tobacco and alcohol. Therefore, they promote and advertise their products to the masses by drawing attention to their intended interest group by sponsoring sports events, by gifting tees, covers, drinking glasses, and another form of goodies with the brand name shown on such items. Presently, the brands are shifting to online modes of promoting by partnering with web series on OTT platforms and different types of video content on YouTube where there are lesser limitations.

Examples of Surrogate Marketing:

  1. Kingfisher: Kingfisher has promoted everything from filtered water to soft drink to schedule under the umbrella of the brand name ‘Kingfisher’ with famous music in their advertisements like “Oo La La La Le O with good times.”
  2. Maanikchand, a manufacturer of gutka (Tobacco) worked with the Filmfare awards ceremony. 
  3. Wills, a brand of ITC used to sponsor the Indian Cricket Matches.
  4. Boat racing was sponsored by “Four Square” cigarettes.
  5. Charms’, a cigarette brand sponsored the “Spirit of Freedom Concert”, which was a musical event. 
  6. Sponsoring Events and through OTT platforms: Sponsoring IPL teams, as they have been supported as one of the most elevated, watched, and popular cricket competitions in India. The group Royal Challengers Bangalore is owned by United Spirits producer of Kingfisher beer.
  7. TVF Pitchers: The UB Group, maker of Kingfisher beer, collaborated with The Viral Fever (TVF), a digital content company, to produce a web series called Pitchers. 
  8. Heineken, a beer perceived by the green-hued bottle with a red star, started a campaign #TheDreamIsland to move individuals to open their reality and understand their unlived dreams. The members got an opportunity to win an adventure get-away. 
  9. A subtle way of Advertising McDowell’s “It’s your life, make it larger.”
  10. Officer’s Choice uses Playing Cards. It is a popular Indian brand. It promotes its products through its product “Playing Cards”, due to which the targeted audience are well acquainted with this brand.
  11. Imperial Blue: in many ads, the whisky is advertised by highlighting the tagline “Men will be Men” which symbolizes Imperial Blue for masculinity.
  12. Bagpiper: The advertisement for Bagpiper Club Soda is shown in place of whisky.

Advantages of Surrogate Marketing:

  • Surrogate Marketing helps the company in generating sales for such banned products. 
  • It keeps reminding and well acquainting the consumers with their banned products in the market, in indirect ways. 
  • If there is no advertisement, the possibility of a threat of new players or new launches in the market by the competitors is low. 

Disadvantages of Surrogate Marketing:

  • It beats the purpose of banning the advertisement of harmful products. 
  • Children are unable to distinguish between the advertised product and the actual harmful product, harming society.

Surrogate Marketing/Advertisements are not just misleading but also dishonest and false. The knowledge and awareness of surrogate marketing is low. Such advertisements/marketing helps in making the customer aware of its product and helping in purchasing the product.

This practice is very dubious yet at the same time still works admirably for the brands. Without Surrogate marketing/advertisement, such brands would not exist and that is the embodiment of Surrogate Marketing. If one recognizes the genuine product that holes up behind another, one can say that this methodology functions effectively and admirably.

Shikha Sinha

Content writer

Akanksha Saxena

Graphic designer

Riha Parikh


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