Disclaimer – One reader has problem with my work more often than not :). He ALWAYS says – “So what’s new?” So, I would like to tell him and others, my writings are not innovative. I do not sit under an apple tree and discover gravity.

Marketing is something even a new born practices – he knows how to promote himself – how to attract clients. It is INNATE and can’t be discovered. My attempts are to just make readers realize that marketing is inbuilt in everyone’s life and how companies are Re-innovating and utilizing it.


Jerry Welsh the Marketing Guru who coined the term AMBUSH MARKETING defines it as “a marketing strategy in which a competing brand connects itself with a major sporting event without paying sponsorship fees.” But the serious question to ask remains – “Is AMBUSH MARKETING limited to sports events?”

Take another concept called PARASITIC MARKETING often used interchangeably with ambush marketing – which most experts feel is the same – invading / exploiting others’ marketing efforts.

Let us try to look at this from a clearer point of view:

Ambush is a military tactic, where one attacks from a concealed position. Simply put, not fighting on fair terms. Ambush marketing is eating into pie of customer’s attention that has been garnered by a third party without actually paying for it. Parasitic marketing is almost the same – I ride on someone Else’s created wave of awareness and modify the message in the minds of the consumers.

For example, Coca – Cola pays money to ICC in 1996 to become the main sponsor – gains exclusive rights within the stadium for the Cricket World cup. But, Pepsi comes with a “Nothing official about it” campaign to counter it. Pepsi sports mega balloons outside the stadiums with huge logos. So, inspite of Coke shelling out money – its return on investment is affected by Pepsi’s entry. Pepsi gets publicity even without paying sponsorship fees. It has associated itself to the World cup…

The startegy is even more prominent in this example:  Say, Reebok is the official sponsor of a sports event and Nike distributes free t-shirts and caps at the entrance to the stadium and visitors sport the t-shirts inside the stadium – free publicity to Nike without paying a penny towards sponsorship again. I haven’t paid money to make my brand visible in the tournament but I still increase visibility relating myself to the event by indirect means.

Knowing Shah Rukh & Ganguly, the main pillars of KKR, were former ambassadors of Pepsi; the current star players like Ishant Sharma are present ambassadors of Pepsi – Coke makes an entry; SPRITE offers to sponsor KKR team and these men are left with no option to pose with Coca Cola banners and bottles… Intelligent advertising, eh? – Next time, I see Ishant Sharma with a Pepsi can – what credibility does it give?

Now back to the main question- Is it limited to SPORTS EVENTS and sponsorships… No, is the lucid response.

Heard of the recent tug of war between the old rivals – P&G and HUL?

P&G ran a teaser for Pantene from June 23 2010- ‘A Mystery Shampoo!! 80% women say is better than anything else’ (P&G was planning to reveal the answer to the teaser on August 1 2010). August 24 2010 saw another hoarding next to the previous one by HUL saying ‘There is no mystery. Dove is the No.1 shampoo’ – so, no sports event but a clear parasitic effort. One company conceals the efforts of another [indirect ambush strategy is legal and has no protection if you are affected]. SOME call it Guerrilla marketing. Teaser campaigns run a major risk of Ambush /guerrilla marketing. The jet – kingfisher episode is an exquisite example.


Campaign runs for a week – “Balbir pasha ko AIDS hoga kya?”..Bharat Matrimonial comes up with a campaign – ” kyun nahi hoga, divorce kyun nahi hoga?”…FINAL TAGLINE of its campaign: “ isiliye kaha tha  – jeevan saathi bharat matrimonial  se chunne ko…” (conceals the efforts of the AIDS campaign – ain’t it?) – Ambushing need not be from your direct competitors only.

So, the next questions – Is it limited to teasers and hoardings? No. Read ahead.

What about an Akshay Kumar look alike admitted in a hospital for he hurt himself chasing a Thums-Up bottle – hasn’t it led to sabotaging the advertising expense incurred by Coca- Cola India for the Thums-Up ad? Then isn’t it ambush marketing? Most call it spoof advertising. Other examples are Sprite’s Seedhi baat no bakwas, where in you destroy/sabotage a positive image built in the consumer’s mind by your competitor.

Is that all? what about look alikes ? A new entrant paints the paste tube red and names it ‘COLGATTE’ to deceive consumers (direct ambush marketing – does have legal recourse)

Companies PUSH their product by giving dealers HUGE MARGINS. Sunfeast (ITC) in Chennai actually survived by the same method – Isn’t it a parasitic method too, if retailer says the other product(Good day) is out of stock and sells your product?  Good day has created the necessary Top of mind recall – a customer has evaluated options and comes to the store to purchase the biscuit but the competitor distorts the image. Haven’t we seen this in multi brand outlets wherein a retailer who gets higher margin from Samsung says Onida has replacement issues? Ambushing your competitor – aren’t you?

Since, Guerilla Marketing, Ambush Marketing, spoof advertising are all defined earlier – it is not advisable to change their definitions or explanations or paradigms.

However, I feel that all these techniques are similar. Their aim is not to capture simple attention but a clutter free mind space – and for this they try to throw out the message retained earlier pertaining to that of a competitor. A blanket term could be TRICK marketing where you create and modify consumer perceptions that your competitor has already paid for (competitor may have already acquired the consumer’s attention or yet to acquire).

4 thoughts on “TRICK MARKETING

  1. Very well researched and brilliantly articulated…very impressive…

    Clearly, the broad term trick marketing captures the idea of negative marketing by competitors…what excites me is that probably its time to get into interactive marketing…interacting not only with the customer but also with the competitors…probably all marketing campaigns must have a plan B to retort in case it falls prey to trick marketing by competitors…

  2. hi,

    a brilliant article but i have my reservations against some of the examples mentioned… Ambush marketing typically means maximizing utilization of salience or equity created for a particular category by a brand and how another brand swoops in to derive benefit from that equity for itself….However, examples like sprite’s baki sab bakwaas.. were those of de-augmenting the benefits of the category to those of core product…In fact many of the ads of Sprite directly collided with that of Mountain Dew rather than utilising equity built by the latter….
    The extension of the ambush marketing could be the example of Bharat Matrimony which has broken the myth that ambush marketing can work for a category alone….

    I also believe that offering huge margins to dealers can not be extrapolated to parasitic effect; since after all dealer relationship is just one activity of the entire marketing gamut….If Sunfeast offers high margins and Good Day builds up brand equity through their C2C (communication to customer) methods; they are both playing the same game but in their own different ways….An example of parasitic marketing could be that of Durian Furniture….Wherever Durian Furniture has set up stores in Tier 1/2 cities; the surrounding trade area has seen an explosive growth for private unbranded furniture players…Hence, those customers of Durian who have lower willingness to pay now have an alternate choice just near the Durian store. A Parasite could be mirrored to that of ambush, in the fact that both feast on someone else’s effort…

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