Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marketing infant formula with the magic of a coupon fairy

              "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
                                                       --Eleanor Roosevelt

Social media, marketing, public relations and social marketing use words and images in the management of our perceptions.  Our reality becomes the world of name brands, products, trinkets and toys that are coveted for the micro-second in internet time.  Discarded next year for the new, improved, sleek and shiny thing of tomorrowland.  Public relation campaigns are about managing the reputations of products or clients.  We are managed and most of us don't even know it.  But then if you knew that you were being managed and manipulated, the marketing would no longer work. 

Breastfeeding advocates are currently faced with a media and marketing campaign entitled, "I Support You" spearheaded by Suzanne Barston, of The Fearless Formula Feeder blog.  The implication is that breastfeeding advocates do not support infant formula feeding mothers.  And that we need a media campaign to get breastfeeding advocates to treat infant formula feeding mothers more fairly.  Little mention is made of how breastfeeding mothers are treated in public.  How breastfeeders are often kicked out of public facilities for breastfeeding.  The argument seems to be weighted on the side of the injustices suffered by infant formula feeders.  Heaven forbid a breastfeeding advocate dare comment on that particular blog.  In fact early on I realized it was a waste of time to make any comments in defense of breastfeeding advocacy on that blog.  It either gets erased or you are personally attacked.  I have watched a variety of breastfeeding advocates bullied on that blog.  So I wonder how can we, breastfeeding advocates, be asked to join this media campaign?  Joining the campaign means that we accept that we have made infant formula feeders feel guilt and shame. I believe that guilt or shame are emotions that are self-imposed feelings.  Blaming others creates anger in the people accused and solves nothing.   I call this an example of scapegoating and it is a great propaganda technique.

Recently it has come to my attention that the "I Support You" campaign is asking breastfeeding and infant formula feeding mothers to bring infant formula coupons to retail stores to give to mothers in an "I Support You" gesture.  The coupon used to show as an example was a Similac coupon.  The retail stores that were used as examples to go to were Walmart, CVS, and Target.  The reason for giving out these coupons was for mothers who could not afford infant formula.  All 3 stores mentioned offer store brand infant formulas from Perrigo which are not as expensive as name-brand formulas like Similac or Enfamil or Carnation Good Start.  I found myself wondering why The Fearless Formula Feeder picked Similac as an example of the coupon to use?  But then I watched one of her instructional videos on infant formula feeding at entitled, "Differences between formulas,"  and to my surprise she specifically mentions one particular brand of formula, Similac Advance [corrected-wrote Advanced] and no other brand.  She also states that infant formula standards are regulated by the Infant Formula Council (which is made up of the various infant formula companies) and the FDA.  Later I found out that prior to creating her blog, Fearless Formula Feeder, was hired with her husband to do a Pampers reality show (A Parent is Born and Welcome to Parenthood).  Both reality shows were sponsored by Pampers but Welcome to Parenthood was also sponsored by Similac and Beechnut.  Both shows are still available for viewing on you tube.  On the internet there are offers for free Pampers and Similac Bundle of Joy Sample kits.  So it would seem that Pampers (Proctor & Gamble) and Similac (Abbott) do joint marketing adventures.  This infant formula association has been pointed out by other bloggers and on August 12, 2012, Suzanne Barston felt it necessary to respond (post entitled, "The startling FFF Disclosure Post."  I found her response light-hearted, and sarcastic.  How could anyone believe that it had any influence on her?  She only became aware of the infant formula sponsorship after she had already done the series.  I know that happens.  We can't always control situations.  Yet the coupon fairy seems to be bringing Similac coupons.  And in the video discussing the differences between formulas, she specifically mentions Similac Advance [corrected-wrote Advantage] and no other name brand.  Coincidence?  The subtle influence of brand names?  

How does the use of infant formula coupons undermine breastfeeding?  One of the problems I see with this exhortation to leave infant formula coupons at stores for economically disadvantage mothers is that there is no control over who gets the coupons.  Thus the pregnant mother is accidently targeted by this kind of marketing.  Helping disadvantaged mothers with coupons creates a dependency on those coupons.  When they stop coming, what can the disadvantaged mother do?  

Should breastfeeding advocates be infant formula coupon fairies to show their support of infant formula feeding mothers?   And what are the infant formula feeding mothers doing to show support of breastfeeding mothers?  Somehow I have not heard that part of this very one-sided media campaign.

I was somewhat surprised that the Fearless Formula Feeder has become a CLC (Certified Lactation Consultant).  Why would someone who believes foremost in the support of infant formula feeders become a Certified Lactation Consultant? How does someone who advocates for infant formula support breastfeeding?  And how does someone who advocates for breastfeeding support infant formula feeding?  Is it possible to do both without compromising your beliefs regarding risks; since how babies are fed is a health care decision and not a personal lifestyle choice? 

I find the "I Support You" media campaign very troubling.  Who in breastfeeding organizations is behind this campaign? Is this social marketing gone amuck? Why does it appear to be a totally one-sided campaign in support of infant formula feeding?  Why are we to accept  that breastfeeding advocates are to blame for the guilt and shame of infant formula feeders? How does handing out infant formula coupons support breastfeeding?
 Copyright 2014 Valerie W. McClain