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Breast, bottle and baby milk

Feed time is an integral part of the journey into parenthood and an important moment when mum and dad can bond with baby.

That said, the breast / bottle debate is one that continues to spark controversy amongst healthcare professionals and retailers alike, with customers and activist groups ready and waiting to spot any marketing blunders.

Whilst this may not seem like a big deal, this has created a huge barrier for baby feeding marketeers for whom the rules are plentiful when it comes to bottle and baby milk campaigns, having to strictly adhere to the WHO code across all marketing collateral. The WHO code is a set of international recommendations published by The World Health Organization intended to regulate the marketing of breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats so as not to negatively impact the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding, given that it is advised that babies should have solely breast milk for the first 6 months of their life (World Health Organization, 1981).

With regards to baby feeding, there are three core areas that we have to consider and tailor our strategy and media recommendations accordingly to ensure not only are we compliant but we will deliver the best results for our clients. Today, we'll take you through some of the 'do's' and 'don'ts' to avoid making a blunder within this challenging category.

Breastfeeding With the UK having the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the world (The Lancet, 2016), retailers continue to try to maintain a neutral stance on the topic, through fear of being seen to promote bottle over breast. Nevertheless, breastfeeding continues to be the ‘safest’ method of promoting feeding across marketing collateral.

Bottle feeding Despite less than half of the British population (43.8%) breastfeeding their baby at 6-8 weeks after birth (GOV.UK, 2017), many women across the UK struggle to conform to the ever-growing pressures imposed on them by society to breastfeed their baby, with the explicit ‘breast is best’ term instilled in the minds of new and expectant mums nationwide.

For those within the baby marketing industry, there are clear rules that must be followed:

  • DO use lifestyle imagery showing a baby and father where possible

  • DO use a baby over 6 months old with hair

  • DON’T show baby self-feeding. Baby should be supported and fed by mum or dad

  • DON’T suggest that the transition from breast to bottle is ‘easy’

  • DON’T show bottles on digital screens behind tills instore

  • DON’T show bottles on in-store security gate and bollard covers

Baby milk The rules surrounding the promotion of baby milk are even more copious, enforcing strict restrictions on how the product can be marketed instore and online:

  • DON’T promote infant formula milk in any marketing campaigns

  • DON’T include any offers or price promotions

  • DO promote follow-on and growing up milk for babies over the age of 6 months old

  • DON’T include babies in marketing campaigns who do not appear to be over 6 months old and have hair and teeth

  • Where possible, DO include the name and age of the baby included on marketing collateral

  • DON’T execute in-store marketing campaigns for milk

  • DON’T imply that formula milk is better than breast milk

  • DON’T include digital activity until deep within the shopper journey (i.e. feeding category banners and Follow-on milk sub-category stripes)

  • DON’T include milk posts over social media

  • DO include legal important notice on all marketing collateral

All three areas of baby feeding harbour their own challenges for brands, retailers and marketeers. Whilst it is imperative that we follow the WHO code, we must also maintain a neutral stance on baby feeding within our marketing campaigns, challenging the boundaries where appropriate to offer support and guidance to all parents and understanding that methods for feeding baby vary from parent to parent, marketing to the many, not the few.



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