A Trend Picking Up Pace – Surrogate Marketing

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on April 01, 2012

Off late, surrogacy has been quite a popular term. And we know, that a surrogate mother is a woman who takes up pregnancy & carries a child in her womb with the sole intent of relinquishing all rights of the child to the waiting parents when the child is born. This trend has proved to be a boon for numerous parents who are facing problems of various kinds. But that is not the only meaning surrogacy connotes. Surrogate marketing is a fast picking up trend in today’s marketing arena.

Surrogate Marketing

Have you ever wondered why companies like Bacardi and Royal stag entered the field of music CDs and are advertising it so rampantly? Or why Kingfisher got into mineral water? Why Haywards 5000 soda and its ‘Honsla anthem’ are so popularized, where as its originally a liquor brand?

The makers of these brands have either been banned from advertising their original products or their marketing activities were restricted by the norms and regulations of the countries in which they advertized.

These are all cases of surrogate marketing. Surrogate marketing can be defined as an intentional utilization of a company, person or object to help convey the message of another party. The term needn’t always have negative connotations as quoted in the examples above. It can have positive connotations as well. It can be considered somewhat similar to grass-root or viral marketing in which a marketing firm or the marketing wing of a firm recruits people to spread the message. Positive surrogate marketing can also refer to employing a representative to the manufacturer who will sell your product.

However, like in everything else, the darker side of surrogate marketing has always been more talked about and become a trend than the positive side. Surrogate marketing has been popularly used as a means of promoting products and services that are considered unhealthy, unethical, illegal or immoral by some groups in particular or by the society at large, in a way that it becomes acceptable to the society. For instance, there are strict norms on the advertising of liquor and tobacco in many countries including India. In such countries, companies promote their products by associating with and promotion of more acceptable brands. For instance, everybody knows four squares is a company making cigarettes, but it doesn’t advertise its cigarettes, but it is more known for the Four Square bravery awards among the general public. In this way, the customer is aware of the acceptable brand but also draws a connection to the related product which is being surrogate marketed through such efforts.

Surrogate marketing generally happens in two contexts – one, where the entire marketing function is outsourced or given away and the group then providing the marketing is referred to as the surrogate marketing department; and two, where firms indulge into brand-extensions into products which are legal and more acceptable to the general public, while fitting well into the government norms and regulations. And in most cases, the companies are not bothered about how their surrogate product is doing in the market. The main to introduce the surrogate product in the market is to remind the customers each time they see the advertisement or the product on the store shelf, of the original product.

There is another variant of surrogate marketing. Lets say for instance, that you are manufacturing a particular product A. This product A requires a particular service B, which you don’t provide. You sign a contract with another service-providing firm X, which provides the requisite service B. Now the firm X agrees to provide the service B, and use only your product A for it. Here, the service provider of service B serves a surrogate marketer for your product A. This could be both in the positive and the negative sense.

Let’s discuss a few examples in detail to understand the concept of surrogate marketing.

1. DIAGEO: The Diageo has associations with its brands. First, Smirnoff, that has cult association with popular music events like the “War of the DJs”, “Nightlife Exchanges”, etc. Johnny Walker is another famous brand of the company, who successful endorsers – Vijay Amritraj & Narayan Murthy have made the brand very popular. They have also made popular its ‘Striding man’ logo, which now also has a society in its name – the Striding Man society for Johnny Walker drinkers. Smirnoff advertises its party and club music VDs well on the TV as well, which are popular among the high-class people ard socialites.

2. SAB MILLER: Sab Miller has been promoting its brand Haywards 5000 has famous actors like Suniel Shetty and Sanjay Dutt endorsing the brand. However, they do not promote the beverage as such, but are endorsers for Haywards 5000 club soda. Soda promotion is wholly acceptable to the society. There have known to be associations with Fosters & Australia, which also surrogate markets its beverages through its mineral water range.

3. BACARDI: Those ads of the times gone by featuring the very famous Bacardi music…that did not promote the beverage brand, but the music CDs and the club soda. This was indirect brand building for Bacardi. If you listen to the lyrics of that popular song carefully, you can hear it talking about the Bacardi rum. But the rum is not being promoted officially, it’s the music being promoted, so the lyrics cannot be contested at all. Off late, a cocktail-mixer app has been designed for the iPhone by Bacardi. But this is not surrogate marketing, its indirect marketing. The CDs and soda is surrogate marketing.

4. UB Group: The UB group is the talk of the town, not for its liquor, not for its boss, not for its marketing, but for its airlines. However, this is one firm that has taken surrogate marketing to heights that are beyond thought.

  • Kingfisher: This is one brand with the most divergent sources of surrogate marketing – Kingfisher Airlines (which may soon be taken off the list), the Kingfisher calendar, the Kingfisher bird logo, which is a part of the logo of the television channel – NDTV Good Times, and a show on the same channel “Making of the calendar”. And moreover, the brand doesn’t need a full-time brand ambassador. Vijay Mallya himself and his trail of bikini-clad calendar girls are brand ambassadors unto themselves.
  • Bagpiper: Another club soda surrogate. Akshay Kumar has been saying since ages now, “Khub jamega rang jab mil baithenge teen yaar, ap, main aur bagpiper.” But it is being said of the soda, not the hard drink!
  • Royal Challenge: Needless to say, the biggest & most expensive surrogate one could ever get for a product – the Royal Challenger Bangalore pay testimony to this.
  • Whyte & Mackay: Its silent marketing, with making a presence on the Royal Challengers Bangalore players’ jerseys. Nothing beyond that actually.
  • White Mischief: Zaid Khan, Fardeen Khan promoting the White Mischief holidays, not to forget the cheerleaders in the IPL as well.

Though some of these are full-time interest and the company does bother if they do well in the market or not, they are still surrogate marketing the hidden product.

Surrogate marketing can be considered a smart way of marketing products as the ad doesn’t name the product as such, but by just communicating the brand name, the original product is being marketed. They are actually more context-based. The judgment of whether they are right or not is left with the customer. Imagine the amount of creativity that goes in to produce one such ad or even come with a product that could be used as a surrogate for marketing.

This trend majorly helps to take a diversion to go across the rules and regulations in particular regions. These rules could be of the government or just the societal norms. If it is liquor and tobacco in India, it could be some other things in some other countries. But companies don’t stop making such products, neither are they banned altogether. Just the marketing is put under the scanner or regulated. Surrogate marketing proves to be a useful tool to take a roundabout route and reach the target.

This article has been authored by Bhavi Patel from IRMA.

Image: Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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