Nestle's Courting of Mommy Bloggers Off the Rails

nestle-family-logoThe invitation was not that uncommon in these days of social media – Nestle was asking twenty of the nation’s mom and dad bloggers to learn about the brand on a trip to Cali.

A trip they’d foot the bill for at Nestle, of course, in exchange for a little bit of that mommy (and daddy) magic. Commence firestorm and mudslinging.

What started it? One word: formula.

But this wasn’t the usual “Breast is best.” “No it isn’t.” “Is so.” “Nuh uh,” argument that the mere mention of the word most often devolves into (yes, we’ve had a few of those show up right here, in fact).

As a company cashed in on the parent blogging powerhouse marketing tool with a fancy vacation, it hit a nerve with people thinking about the have nots.

A little history: on and off since 1977, there’s been a world-wide Nestle boycott among breastfeeding advocates in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and the good old US of A.

The problem stems from marketing by Nestle of its baby formula in third world countries, a move the boycott supporters say leads directly to the deaths of infants (one pamphlet distributed on behalf of the cause was oh-so-sublty titled “Nestle Kills Babies”). Nestle was brought to court in a German court in the seventies over the issue, but a TIME magazine article from the time relates a draw of sorts – the company could not be linked to any deaths, but was directed to modify its marketing campaigns. But it didn’t die then – another boycott came back in the 80s and stands strong today.

So when parents of the net said “yes, Nestle, we’re coming,” their peers didn’t take it standing up. They hovered over their keyboards tweeting and typing out blog posts.

PhD in Parenting has one of the most comprehensive attacks on the company, colored with strong language that makes clear her feelings on the formula company: “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.”

Other parents managed to sum it up in one hundred forty or less: “RT @Blacktating: What’s scarier than ghosts & goblins? #Nestlefamily.”

Trying to keep up, Nestle’s CEO hopped on Twitter. And bloggers headed to Cali popped up to defend themselves.

Still, five days after the party at headquarters ended (the Nestle meeting was held Sept. 30 and Oct. 1), the blogosphere and Twitterverse alike are rampant with the Nestle war.

For me, it’s done two things: opened my eyes to a boycott I’d never heard of and made me ponder the truth of the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Nestle wanted the parent’s perspective. They’ve certainly gotten it. But is that a bad thing for them?

Image: Nestle Family

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