Is Insta-visibility marketing the new way forward for a brand?

We have seen ambush marketing, surrogate advertising, and now we are in the era of Insta-visibility marketing. Ambush marketing, also known as coat-tail marketing, is the practice of hijacking or co-opting another advertiser’s campaign to raise awareness of a company or brand. This practice simultaneously reduces the effectiveness of communication while undermining the quality and value of other competitor brands. Surrogate marketing is all about promoting banned products such as alcohol or cigarettes in the market. One resorts to camouflaging an alcohol brand, for instance, as a mineral water brand and promote. 

While these are traditional definitions, ambush marketing, in particular, has seen a dynamic change with the marketers. Emerging as effective ammunition in the arsenal of marketing tools, it is often used as a mechanism to mislead the audience about competing brands or create social media furore and drive instant awareness.

It’s the world of Insta-visibility Marketing

Some marketing strategies have moved a notch higher to adopt what I call, insta-visibility marketing. Any strategy and tactic that provides a brand instant, mass visibility, making it the talk of the town. With the primary objective being to garner instant visibility, it may or may not adhere to the basic premise of ethical business practice: honesty in advertising and business communications. 

Whether insta-visibility marketing is ethical or simply smart business practice is debatable. It is a question of moral vs ethical vs legal. Some may say this kind of marketing is parasitic marketing, claiming that companies are deliberately looking for ways to piggyback on anything – including slandering competition to grab the public’s attention. There is a tendency to take a very narrow, here-and-now view discarding that such strategies may be detrimental to the brand and its customers in the long run. This approach will jeopardise the viability of their communication, and brand imagery is ignored. While in the short-term consumers may steer towards the brand that has received instant visibility owing to top-of-mind recall, in the long run, they will shift towards trustworthy and affordable brands. 

Most insta-visibility marketing is like social media. They come and go in days or sometimes hours. The long-term impact depends on the emotional connection of the consumer with the brand and product. 

Bring in Accountability

Countries like South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, China, England, Brazil and Canada have some amendments or legislation defining ‘ambush marketing’ as a specific type of IPR infringement and fixing liability. It may be time for regulators to look at how to reign-in insta-visibility marketing. How effective it would be is a different thing. Even though laws exist that have a general application to the problem of ambush marketing, only a handful of cases have progressed through the legal system. It is particularly true for challenges to ambush marketing using the theory of misappropriation.

Corporations have been very adept and successful at protecting themselves from legal challenges against ambush marketing. The same may repeat in this insta-visibility marketing too. Nonetheless, we need concrete steps brought in to ensure better accountability.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises. She anchors the weekly PR and Communication podcast, Mrigashira.

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