Surrogate Marketing: The only way for brands to promote banned products?

With this piece, we take a look at Surrogate Marketing by taking examples of advertisements of a few famous brands out there, now how they… Surrogate Marketing with examples

Have you watched the Seagram’s Imperial Blue Music CDs ad?

Yes, Men will be Men campaign one which has trickled millions of hearts. Have you ever bought those Music CDs?

We think not.

But what hits your mind?

CDs or Whisky? 🙂

That is the astounding feature of Surrogate Marketing and can be related with a famous Hindi proverb

“Hanthi ke daant dikhane ke kuch aur, aur khane ke kuch aur”

Literal Translation – “The visible teeth(tusks) and the teeth used by an elephant to eat are not the same.”

What is surrogate marketing?

Surrogate marketing is a promotional strategy used for promoting banned products like alcohol or cigarettes in the market. The banned products are advertised in an indirect manner or masked under another product. You show surrogate products to the audience to actually promote banned products.

Bagpiper uses Water, Soda and Music. Bagpiper is an Indian brand and it’s one of the best whiskey brands in India. It advertises its products through its surrogate product – Bagpiper Club Soda. Do you remember that very interesting catchy line? “Khub Jamega Rang”

Bagpiper – we’re sure you remember this jingle? 🙂

Officers Choice uses Playing Cards. Officer’s Choice is an Indian brand and one of the largest spirit brands in the world. It promotes its products through its surrogate product – Playing Cards, due to which the targeted audience gets to know about this brand.

Officer’s Choice – cards example

And similarly, Seagrams hints by using Music. McDowell’s by using Water and Soda. Kingfisher by Water and Bacardi by Music! These brands are even remembered with their catchy taglines.

Some interesting examples:

Seagram’s Imperial Blue – Men will be men, few of the most hilarious ads we’ve seen. (check one of their ads below)

Bacardi – When Music kicks into the rescue

Kingfisher – Oo La La La Le O with good times

McDowell’s – It’s your life, make it larger

But have you ever imagined why they only choose Music CDs, Water and Soda as a surrogate products?

Well, most of the surrogate products like water and soda are used in compliment with alcohol and will never cannibalize the sales of banned products. But what about Music CDs and Playing Cards? People love to listen to music when they are drunk and alcohol companies’ leverage on these consumer behaviour aspects as well. And the same goes for playing cards.

Origin of Surrogate Marketing

The origin of surrogate advertising is traced to Britain when housewives started protesting against liquor advertisements which provoked their husbands. The protest rose to a level that liquor advertising was banned and brand owners decided to promote fruit juices and soda under the brand name which later emerged as surrogate marketing.

Several surveys and interviews have drawn inferences and 42 out of 50 people can understand the actual liquor or tobacco product being advertised.

Surprising Again! That’s why govt. is even planning to ban Surrogate Advertising.

What are the other options left for these brands now?

Alcohol companies very well know this fact and they have identified their way to get out of this. They have now moved to event sponsorship, producing branded content on digital platforms and organizing shows. As audiences have moved away from their TVs to their mobile phones for entertainment (a report from Zenith Media revealed that India’s average daily viewing time of online videos multiplied over 20 times since 2012), liquor companies have found it viable to invest in online video marketing.

Famous examples are
  • TVF Pitchers – The UB Group, maker of Kingfisher beer, tied up with The Viral Fever (TVF), a digital content company, to produce a web series called Pitchers and has extended the contract for two more seasons
  • Bacardi NH7 Weekender – The 2019 NH7 Weekender music festival was title sponsored by Bacardi
  • Breezer Vivid Shuffle – India’s first only hip-hop music festival brought by Bacardi Breezer
  • Sponsoring IPL teams – They have even sponsored one of the highest viewed cricket tournaments in India, IPL. The team Royal Challengers Bangalore is owned by United Spirits maker of Kingfisher beer.

Heineken, a beer recognized by the green coloured bottle with a red star, came up with a campaign #TheDreamIsland to inspire people to open their world and realize their unlived dreams. The participants were asked about their unfulfilled dreams and had a chance to win an adventurous vacation

Australian beer brand Foster’s targeted different set of audience who are travelers through its campaign #Damncold. This campaign promoted the brand through the different lens in the market.

Author (Collaboration)

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