Surrogate Marketing - Does It Really Work?

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 3578 , Published on 16 April 2012

The first thing that needs to be answered when the working of surrogate marketing is questioned is on its existence. Why exactly does surrogate marketing exist and how does it happen in India?

The existence & its types:-

1. Happens when there is ban on alcoholic and tobacco advertising. Therefore, companies in banned industries are introducing brand extensions with products that are legal to advertise with the same brand name as the brand product.

Example: Many can recall the Bacardi ads of yore with the famous Bacardi Music! Again, it was not the beverage brand that was being promoted. The direct promotion was for the Bacardi soda and the Music CDs, but if you see the lyrics (which cannot be contested) it does talk about Bacardi RUM!

2. Marketing banned products by collaborating with social causes, so that not only do they get the audience’s association, they’re in line with the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) but they get a broad platform to market their products.


Red & White cigarettes are manufactured by Godfrey Phillips India ltd. They have always utilized top film stars depicting through advertisements promoting their product. Along with that they also have an actual bravery award ceremony. Press coverage is also given.

3. Marketing done at the stake of another company. Better explained by an Example:-

Let us assume there is a Big Brand called “A”. It wishes to advertise something but does not want to put attention on itself. So it uses a smaller company, let’s say “B”, usually owned by “A”, to propagate those advertisements. Usually it is done to create a negative impression about a rival Brand, or to market controversial stuff. So in this case, even if there is any legal action, it will be against “B” and not “A”. Since “B” is a small company there won’t be much loss!


This as we know is a promotion by Kingfisher. Though Kingfisher airlines have a full-fledged business (Company “A”) but it has small promotions like the Kingfisher Calendar (Company “B”) to promote its brand of Kingfisher beer.

Impacts Of Surrogate Marketing:-

1. A lot of marketers, health industry, ASCI and various other NGOs which work towards the health of people believe that sale of banned products is difficult to stop with as many regulations possible but at least these products could be less glorified and less publicized to curb sales. Surrogate advertising breaks the bound of these regulations and uses a smart way to promote these brands and make sure that these products are marketed in the best possible way and as indirect as possible to avoid any conflicts with the regulatory boards.

2. Impacts like early experimentation and regular consumption of alcohol and other products can be visibly seen amongst youth and teenagers too.

3. The further developments contribute even more in lowering the cola-beer ratio bringing along with it an undesirable lifestyle supposedly mimicking a global perspective.

4. The positive impact can be mostly seen on brands whose sales thrive on advertisements and promotions and the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverages Companies (CIABC) too maintains that the advertisement of products by the liquor industry must be allowed.


The topic of surrogate marketing and its impact is not very debatable since mediums like social networking, television, radio and all other mediums do create an impact and it’s like “You can hate it or love it but you cannot ignore it”!

We have always seen rivals putting down each other in the form of advertisements and sometimes they use this kind of marketing which is still not considered “unethical” under any law.

So what the actual debate should be is whether such advertisements are ethical in a country like India or not and to what extent do bans and control on theme will actually impact the sales and promotions of products with innovative marketers who don’t leave any stones unturned when it comes to finding loop holes in the Advertising regulations.

This article has been authored by Ritu Samdani from Welingkar Institute Of Management Development & Research, Mumbai.



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