What Is Surrogate Marketing? Uncovering The Hype Around It

Surrogate Marketing

Curious about the buzz surrounding Surrogate Marketing? Ever happened that you see ads for a product, but they’re actually promoting something else entirely. That’s surrogate marketing in action!

Surrogate Marketing

It’s like a clever disguise for products that can’t be directly advertised. But why the secrecy? What’s the hype all about? 

Go through our article to uncover the mystery behind surrogate marketing. We’ll unravel its purpose, its tactics, and why it’s got everyone talking!

(A) What is Surrogate Marketing?

Surrogate marketing is a strategy used by companies to indirectly promote products or services that cannot be advertised directly due to legal restrictions or societal norms. You see, the term surrogate means to replace. Hence, instead of marketing the restricted product itself, companies advertise a related or unrelated product that indirectly promotes the restricted one. 

In other words, when companies want to promote products or services that have legal or social restrictions, they play the surrogate marketing game. Instead of shouting about the restricted product from the rooftops, they get crafty to deceive you!

(B) How Surrogate Marketing Works?

Here’s how it works-

Let’s say there’s a ban on advertising tobacco products. Instead of showing cigarettes in their ads, a company might sponsor a music concert and prominently display its logo and branding. While the ad may seem to be about the concert, the real aim is to associate the brand with a certain lifestyle or image, which in turn promotes the tobacco product without explicitly showing it. 

Another example is surrogate advertising for alcohol. Instead of directly promoting alcoholic beverages, companies might advertise their soda or water brands, but with subtle cues or references that link them to the alcohol brand. This way, they’re still getting their message across without violating any advertising regulations.

Surrogate marketing is not only about legal restrictions but also about social and cultural norms. For instance, promoting certain products directly might be considered inappropriate or offensive in some cultures or communities. In such cases, companies resort to surrogate marketing to avoid backlash while still reaching their target audience.

So next time you spot an ad that seems a bit too clever, remember, it might just be playing the surrogate marketing game!

(C) Strategies of Surrogate Marketing

Surrogate Marketing strategies

As you have read above, Surrogate marketing is all about being clever and strategic in getting your message across without breaking any rules. Let’s dive into the various strategies companies use to pull off this marketing magic-

  • Promotion by Extension: Imagine you have a popular brand name, and you want to introduce a new product. Voila! That’s a brand extension for you. Companies leverage the trust and familiarity customers have with their brands to promote new products. Take Kingfisher, for example. They’ve expanded beyond beer to promote everything from soda to airlines, all under the same trusted brand umbrella.
  • Promotion by Association: Ever seen a celebrity endorse a product and thought, “Hmm, if they like it, it must be good”? That’s promotion by association. Companies partner with celebrities to reflect certain values or traits they want customers to associate with their brand. For instance, Bagpiper Club Soda roped in Bollywood legend Shatrugan Sinha to portray their brand as one for the bold and adventurous.
  • Promotion Through TV Commercials: TV commercials are a classic marketing tool, but when it comes to certain products like alcohol or tobacco, direct advertising is a no-go. So what’s a company to do? They create commercials that cleverly disguise the product or focus on something else entirely. Picture this: a commercial for a famous alcohol brand that actually promotes a new soda instead. Sneaky, right?
  • Promotion Through Events And Sponsorships: Have you ever been to a sports event and noticed logos plastered everywhere? That’s no coincidence; it’s surrogate advertising at work. Companies sponsor events or teams and strategically place their logos to subtly remind consumers of their brand. Royal Stag, for example, owned an IPL team and used Coke Studio performances to get their brand noticed.
  • Promotion through Public Service Announcement: Public service announcements (PSAs) are a powerful way to raise awareness about social issues. But did you know they can also be used for surrogate marketing? Companies can use PSAs to educate the public about the dangers of certain products while subtly showcasing their brand. It’s like saying, “Hey, smoking is bad, but look at our colorful logo!” 

These strategies allow companies to navigate advertising restrictions and societal norms while still making sure their brand stays top of mind.

(D) Examples of Surrogate Marketing

Let’s discuss some real-life examples of surrogate marketing in India-

Bacardi Blast Music CDs

Bacardi, a popular alcoholic beverage brand, used music CDs branded as “Bacardi Blast” to indirectly promote its alcohol products. Although the CDs themselves did not contain any alcohol-related content, they carried the brand logo and name, creating brand visibility.

Bagpiper Club Soda

Bagpiper, known for its whiskey, used the “Bagpiper Club Soda” brand to promote its alcoholic beverages. The soda product featured the same logo and branding as the whiskey, allowing the company to maintain brand presence without directly advertising the alcohol.

Officers Choice Playing Cards

Officers Choice, a whiskey brand, used playing cards with its logo and branding to indirectly promote its alcoholic products. These cards were distributed widely, creating brand awareness among consumers.

Imperial Blue Mineral Water

Imperial Blue, another whiskey brand, introduced mineral water bottles with the same logo and branding. By doing so, they indirectly associated their whiskey brand with the mineral water product.

Kingfisher Airlines

Kingfisher ad

Kingfisher Airlines, owned by the UB Group, was a prominent example of surrogate advertising. Although the airline business was the primary focus, the brand leveraged its association with the Kingfisher beer brand. The airline’s logo and branding closely resembled that of Kingfisher beer, indirectly reinforcing the beer brand.

Royal Challenge Sports Drink

Royal Challenge, a whiskey brand, introduced a sports drink with the same name. The packaging and branding resembled the whiskey bottle, allowing the company to maintain visibility without directly promoting alcoholic beverages.

Fosters Soda

Fosters, known for its beer, launched a non-alcoholic soda called “Fosters Soda.” The packaging design mirrored that of their beer cans, subtly promoting the beer brand.

McDowell’s No. 1 Soda

McDowells Soda

McDowell’s No. 1, a popular whiskey brand, introduced a soda product under the same brand name. The soda cans featured the whiskey logo, creating an indirect link to the alcoholic product.

Haywards 5000 Soda

Haywards 5000, a strong beer brand, used soda cans with similar branding to promote its beer. The soda product had no alcohol content but maintained the brand’s visibility.

Note: There is another type of marketing that is super effective and good for the public too! Here I’m talking about Moment Marketing! For more details, go through the article- 11 Most Well Executed Moment Marketing Examples By Brands.

(E) Final Words

The hype around surrogate marketing stems from its clever use as a workaround for promoting products that face restrictions on direct advertising. By promoting related products or services indirectly, brands can maintain visibility while adhering to legal or ethical limitations.

However, you must note that surrogate advertising has faced ethical concerns. Critics argue that it exploits loopholes in advertising regulations, misleads consumers, and undermines public health efforts. For instance, promoting alcoholic beverages through surrogate advertising can contribute to alcoholism-related health problems…

Do you think the government must take action against such companies for displaying deceptive ads? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Related Posts:

Photo of author
Published By: Supti Nandi
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tushar Vashisht
Tushar Vashisht
1 month ago

Yes, some brands take unnecessary advantage of surrogate marketing for branding their restricted products… Alcohol drink brands are the most common examples