Surrogate To Survive: Surrogate Marketing

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on February 16, 2012

The essence of Surrogate marketing lies on Communicating the value of a  particular banned or illegal  product/service  of  a  company  by  using  certain acceptable  brand  extensions  of  the same company with  the same logo and brand name. It refers to intentionally utilizing a company, person, product or service to help convey the message of another product or service. It can also be define as duplicating the brand image of one product extensively to promote another product of the same company.


The history of surrogate marketing existed from long years backs in different connotations and applicable not only the liquor, narcotic products but service categories also like movie promotions and pornography market.

But it comes in limelight when a few years ago in UK, where housewives protested against liquor and narcotic advertisements and demanded to ban on advertisement of alcoholic and narcotic products. After ban on products this industry left with no other relaying option than surrogate marketing.

As example, selling CDs of pornography in the name of religious mystics can be seen in street shops, using item songs to promote the films or promoting big stars’ guest appearance as a major role in movies, using sodas, fruit-juices, water with Liquor, Cigarette, Bidi, Tobacco brand names can be seen on TVs and posters.

It works as a viral and opinion leader kind of way to top of the mind recall and awareness for the target consumer group, who can decode the message.

Surrogate marketing is now done by

  1. Sponsoring events like Fashion Weeks, events like rock shows and selling other cover products, IPL, Formula one etc.
  2. Facebook and social media like secret group sharing, page creation, chatting, mail
  3. Internet, digital and print media, like TV ads, call service, SMS

A. Film Industry and surrogate marketing

Movies like low budget or low starrer uses these kind of marketing to mislead the audience, an audience decode this message as his stereotypical way and get in to watch this movie, which is total far related to the message.

Kollywood movies like Dhanam, Dindigul Sarathi has opted such kind of marketing, Kuselan uses the guest role of Rajneekant in its’ 90% posters to market like main actor. Bollywood movies like Kaal, Delhi Belly’s promotions as a Shahrukh Khan and Amir Khan acted movies can also be considered in this line.

B. Typical Alcoholic/Narcotic brands and products promoted by surrogate marketing


Communicating product

Main Product Category


Water and soda, cassettes, CDs



Water and soda


Red and White

Bravery awards



Bravery awards



Calendars and mineral water


Pan Parag

Pan masala


Johny walker



Royal challenge

Golf accessories and mineral water


Four square white

Water rafting and gliding


Wills lifestyle

Apparels, Accessories



Cassettes and CDs


Smirnoff, Aristocrat

Apple juice


502 Pataka

502 Pataka Tea


Haywards 5000

Darting kids


AC Black

Apple juice


Surrogate Marketing

Surrogates as a brand personality

Surrogates as brand personality

Using celebrities or associated persons in advertising, arouses the customer to take a chance of trial, help them to crack the message. Suppose for example Sunny Leone is advertising for a religious movie, the customers who are aware about Sunny Leone can easily get the communicated message.

Communication fit for Alcoholic and narcotic industry

Being banned to the normal advertising of its core message to the audience has left orphan to the liquor, narcotic and pornography industry, so as a possible choice they are more prone to depend on surrogate marketing, due to its effectiveness in terms creating awareness, recall and selling products to the target consume

Target Consumer base (India):

Alcoholic beverage

Industry size(crores)

Market size

Market growth


Country liquor

Not quantified

58 million






70 million


[Source:, Dec. 2011]IMFL: Indian made foreign liquor

Surrogate Ads as a smart way of marketing

Surrogate Ads are a creative & smart solution to make potential customers recall and aware about products which are not be allowed by the law to advertise in certain type of public media.

  1. Ride on some other more popular product and/or concept
  2. Strong sense of positioning of brand Identity and deployment
  3. It creates strong association with customers, e.g. Vodafone ads.

Surrogate smart ways

Impact on Stakeholders and Business environment





Government generates revenue

Company ends up with high cost of advertising

Profiting media by paying high advertising cost




Don’t effecton others who are unaware

Misleading to younger generation

Focused to selective target segment

Challenging the ethical way of doing business

Leads to healthy environment

Leads to promote unhealthy products



Company doesn’t breaks the legal spectrum


Future Alternatives

Having high growth and market penetration of other marketing channels like, direct marketing and mobile commerce can be considered as options for these industries because of its larger impact and reachability to target consumers.

Take away

Finally, we conclude that for industries like, liquor, cigarette, bidi, tobacco and porn have to depend on surrogate marketing to survive and grow. Surrogacy is serving their purpose;this trend will also be leverage by other industries to recall strong brand association and loyal consumer base. But surrogate marketing in other industries will serve the purpose or not it is questionable.

This article has been authored by Umesh C. S. Arya from IIM, Kozikode.

Image: Rawich /

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