Why & How Surrogate Marketing exists
In India, it is banned to have TV ads promoting carcinogenic products & alcohol. But these products are high margins and generate huge profits for the companies selling them thus the companies have loads of money to promote their products. But promoting their products is banned under Indian Law so what they do. They launch a product which is not hazardous to health under the same brand name and start promoting that. Now whenever you hear Bacardi, your brain recalls an alcohol brand and not Music CDs. So, they bypass the law by making a surrogate marketing product by the same brand name. They took Shakespeare too seriously when he said: “What’s there in a name”. They used the same name for two products one is promoted and the other one is benefitted like a humble twin. Television ads for this new “healthy” product are broadcasted and authorities can’t stop them as they abide by all “rules & laws”. Now we have alcohol brands showing ads of packaged Soda bottles. And since these companies are big giants they hire huge celebrities to promote their product. Shahrukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan & Ranveer Singh asking you to make it large by Royal Stag “music CDs” and Ajay Devgn stating that it would be fun when the three unite: You, I and Bagpiper “Soda”. And when you are watching a Carlsberg ad you know it is beer first and not “club glasses” as the ad claims. These are, all, cases of Surrogate Marketing.
Let’s look at a recent case of Pan Bahar which is currently facing attack on social media. The celebrity used for the campaign, Pierce Brosnan, claimed that he has been wrongfully duped into doing the campaign and was unaware that he was promoting carcinogenic products. Let’s examine this: Pierce Brosnan was not informed that he is advertising for a mouth freshener which is the surrogate product for a chewing tobacco product of the same name. This backfired as the celebrity questioned the company’s motives of using him in a surrogate product without giving prior knowledge of the same. This further tarnishes the image of company. The motto behind bringing in a foreign star was to premium-ize the product by giving it some sort of aspirational appeal. With Pierce Brosnan first being trolled for promoting a tobacco product and later backing out on grounds of no knowledge of it and going to extent of saying that he would not have done it having lost her wife to cancer have clearly given a wrong image of Pan Bahar in the TG they were trying to make an impact in.
Surrogate marketing is now a well adopted form of marketing. It works best for the brands when celebrity persona is mapped with the perception a company is trying to propagate. Keeping full transparency with the celebrities who would be endorsing the brand is essential, otherwise, things may fall flat.