SMH: Mummy bloggers spit the dummy over Nestle's spoilt milk

Wednesday, 07 October 2009
This article from the SMH illustrates the current rise of the bull market in dissent. Now we just need to keep harnessing the people power...

Hell hath no fury like a mummy blogger scorned - a lesson quickly learnt by Nestle this week after its attempt to buy bloggers' affections backfired spectacularly.
Nestle has become one of the world's most boycotted companies following international outrage by campaigners who claim that it is marketing baby milk formula as a substitute for breastfeeding to people in the developing world, who are often unable to mix it with clean drinking water.

Critics say the practice is killing children, while Nestle insists it does not encourage formulas over breast milk and that mothers should have the right to choose how to feed their babies.

Seeking to turn the tide of public opinion in its favour and save a brand that has been savaged by the power of social media activism, the company invited 20 of the most influential parenting bloggers to its US headquarters for a two-day all-expenses-paid meeting with Nestle's chief executive officer.

The event, putting Nestle's side of the story, ran from September 30 until October 1 and the company even sent free steaks to the women's homes, purportedly to feed the men of the house while the mummy bloggers were on the Nestle junket.

The bloggers were expected to write - presumably positive - posts from the event and Nestle set up a Twitter tag, "#nestlefamily", to aggregate their tweets. But as soon as the anti-Nestle activists discovered the tag, they stormed Twitter and the blogs with vitriol, overriding Nestle's attempt to massage the message.

"Advertising formula and providing free samples to women in developing countries could be likened to advertising free c-sections with a dirty knife and untrained medical staff," wrote the author of a blog called PhD in Parenting.

Now, more people than ever know about the anti-Nestle campaign as the protests spread virally. Thousands of people have joined more than 160 Facebook groups dedicated to boycotting Nestle.

"Data trends indicate that what began as a social media public relations experiment tapped into a large amount of dissatisfaction among influential audiences relating to Nestle's alleged corporate practices and ethical behaviour," said SR7, an Australian company employed by brands to monitor their reputations on social networking sites.

Anti-Nestle campaigners, including Baby Milk Action and the International Baby Food Action Network, claim Nestle's aggressive marketing in the developing world is leading to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

They claim bottle-fed babies are up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea in areas with unsafe drinking water.

UNICEF says about 1.5 million child deaths a year in the developing world are attributable to poor breastfeeding practices.

Nestle boycotts have been conducted since the 1970s but, with the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, protesters from around the world can easily rally together and spread their message far and wide.

"The Nestle Family initiative again reinforces the power of social media and networks in shaping the outcomes of campaigns on these platforms," SR7 said.

At the end of this month, citizens' groups in more than 100 countries will hold their annual "Nestle-Free Week", with campaigners ramping up their online and street protests. It coincides with Halloween, a very lucrative event for the confectionary producer.

Responding to the #nestlefamily Twitter storm, Nestle Australia's corporate affairs manager, Fran Hernon, said the reactions were biased and "predictable".

"This just goes to show that the blogosphere is a tough place to try to have a rational argument!," she wrote in an emailed statement.

"The event at Nestle USA was held to introduce our company to a number of bloggers. It was very successful, which of course absolutely infuriated the small, biased, vocal group whose anti-Nestle opinions are so entrenched that no matter what we do, they will twist it to present us in the worst possible light."

From Sydney Morning Herald:

1 Comment

  • Comment Link Chris Mulford Thursday, 04 February 2010 16:40 posted by Chris Mulford

    You have to give Nestlé marks for persistence. This 2-day junket for “influential parenting bloggers” reminds me of a young woman that I met at the 4th UN World Conference on Women in 1995. I was at the NGO Forum in Huairou, a small resort town miles outside Beijing where the 30,000+ NGO activists were accommodated, out of sight of the diplomats who were negotiating the wording of the Platform for Action.

    The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, had organized a small team of breastfeeding advocates to speak up for breastfeeding as a women’s issue. The team included a Brazilian mime troupe that did a wonderful street theater piece, where a mom gave birth, then had doubts about breastfeeding. A formula salesman strode in on stilts with his free samples to “save the day,” but then he went offstage and the actor transformed back into the baby’s humble father, who REALLY saved the day by throwing out the formula and pacifier and giving the mother the support she needed to get back to exclusive breastfeeding.

    The young woman saw a performance of the show and later came to a scheduled workshop about breastfeeding. Afterwards she explained to us that she was one of a group of about ten young women—she was from Europe but the others were mostly daughters of influential Asian families. The group had their way paid to Beijing plus hotel rooms (and probably spending money) for the duration of the conference. They had been fêted by high-up people from Nestlé, who asked them to fan out and attend Conference events about infant health and breastfeeding, where they were supposed to speak up about the good things Nestlé was doing now, and how the company had changed its ways since the bad old days of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

    Wasn’t this a clever idea of Nestlé’s, to buy plausible spokeswomen to present the company line at the Women’s Conference? Our visitor told us the ploy was not really working, though, because she was the only one who bothered to take the bus out to Huairou and actually attend NGO events. The others stayed in Beijing and went shopping.

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