Baby Dove misses the mark with mums

In the epoch of ‘brand purpose’, it’s baffling that Baby Dove has got its latest campaign so wrong. Their parent brand’s own ‘Real Beauty’ platform has been held up as an example of purpose-done-well, but this latest ad campaign, launched in National Breastfeeding Celebration Week, is a glaring error in judgement.

The ad copy that’s provoked most fury is as follows: “75% say breastfeeding in public is fine. 25% say put them away. What’s your way?” The insight behind the whole campaign is that mums are constantly bombarded with advice on how to bring up a baby, when actually they just want to feel like brands are supporting whatever parenting choices they make. It’s a rich insight, but promoting acceptance of ALL perspectives on parenting (including the shaming of public breastfeeding) is far too literal an interpretation and a worrying strategic direction. Yes mums should be allowed to choose whether to breastfeed in public, but no one should be given permission to tell mum’s to ‘put them away’.

Consumers are starting to look to brands to take a defined stance on social issues — think Airbnb calling for marriage equality in Australia. UK mums are no different. Saatchi and Saatchi’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Brands: Mum Edition’ report, written in collaboration with Mumsnet, highlights ‘integrity’ as one of brand attributes that mums most value. Mums so often encourage their children to ‘be themselves’ and place particular importance on brands that do the same. They gravitate towards brands that make them and their children feel like the world outside is stable and non-judgmental. This desire for stability and support is arguably even more pertinent in our current UK climate and as Debbie Klein, chief executive for Europe and Asia Pacific at Engine points out, “During times of uncertainty, consumers inevitably turn to brands, companies and people they can trust.”

A mum’s right to breastfeed in public is (IMHO) a topic that isn’t up for discussion. By making it one, Baby Dove has broken the trust of mums. As one of my colleagues succinctly pointed out — breastfeeding in public is legally allowed yet mums who do it are often shamed; the 25% of people in the ad are part of the problem. So why are Baby Dove embracing them?

Whilst embracing the entire mass audience might please fans of Byron Sharp, having a strong brand purpose necessitates careful audience targeting. Identifying and aligning with a target audience sends a loud signal about who you’re ‘for’ — it nails your colours to the mast. It therefore does also inevitably alienate some potential customers who don’t agree with what you stand for.

Unfortunately, in their pursuit of sales, Baby Dove missed an opportunity to speak up against the 25% that judge breastfeeding mums. Doing good is about provoking conversation and engagement to further positive social change. It’s not about sitting on the fence.

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