Surrogate Marketing & Its Application in Tobacco Products

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on October 16, 2014

Have you ever thought why various liquor companies launch their music CDs, or why brands like Bagpiper or Haywards have product lines like packaged drinking water and club soda?

The answer to these questions is none other than Surrogate marketing.

In surrogate marketing, marketers resort to a method called disguised marketing in which harmful or banned products are marketed through another product which are seemingly unharmful.

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The birth of surrogate marketing took place in Britain, when housewives and homemakers started protesting and raising voices against liquor advertisements. Due to this public outrage, Advertising of the liquor product had to be banned, and liquor brands after rethinking their strategy started advertising fruit juices and soda under their brand names. This strategy was later adopted by marketers across the world and is called Surrogate marketing. Advertising of products like cigarettes and liquor have been banned in India since 1995, Since then companies has resorted to marketing of their products through Surrogate marketing. Surrogate marketing as a concept is a very debated concept and some people consider it as very unethical while some people regard it as a genius branding strategy.


Surrogate marketing has huge applications in the tobacco industry.


• Cigarette companies engage in brand stretching and advertising through organizing events such as bravery awards, fashion shows, and music awards etc

• Companies like Four Square which thrives mainly on Cigarette business also organizes events like water rafting and gliding to make their brand presence in the market


‘Manikchand’,which are majorly known for manufacturing of guthka , organizes and sponsors events like Filmfare awards


‘Wills’, which is a major brand of ITC in cigarettes, makes the use of surrogate marketing by sponsoring Indian cricket team and also they have their clothing line and fashion stores


Gold Flake cigarettes sponsors tennis matches and other sporting events

Surrogate advertising is considered to be hugely misleading and is frowned upon in the society. On one hand while people consider it unethical because the use of chicanery and deceit to fool the general audience, some people consider it ethical because they consider alcohol and tobacco products just another product which also needs advertisements.


The major argument of people supporting surrogate marketing is that if such products are considered so unethical, then why not ban the products all together, rather than banning the advertisements. It is a fact that Liquor and tobacco products is a huge market in India which has market value of Rs. 1.3 lakh crores, it is a very legitimate business and banning it all together is not possible, and therefore Surrogate marketing isn’t going to go anywhere, whether people consider it ethical or unethical.

There’s a rift between industry and Indian government as Government thinks that promoting such brands has an influence on young impressionable minds of Indian citizens. A way to make this a win win situation is to make formal guidelines and set some ground rules on how far surrogate advertising should be allowed to go and making transparent laws for banning surrogate advertisements. Consumers are more aware these days and Surrogate advertising is a concept that is getting known to the general public.


This article has been authored by Himanshu Sachdeva from IIM Udaipur


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