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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Guest Post: It's all about marketing

Today's Guest Post is by Clarice Talavera-Avinante, a fellow N@W and breastfeeding mom. Clarice is also an events organizer and you can get more details about her services by visiting her website. In one of my posts, Clarice left a comment/email that she previously did a market study on the claims made by formula milk.  Because of the study that she and her then-boyfriend (now husband) conducted, they made a resolve to breastfeed their babies.  Read on to learn what they found out:

When I was in grade school, there was a TV commercial of a formula milk showing a likeness of a baby slowly being scuplted. All the while the importance of taurine in the development of sight was narrated in the background. Towards the end of the commercial, the eyes of the sculpture were attached. It was a beautiful baby.

It was such an enticing commercial that I wondered about the importance of taurine and made me believe that that particular milk was THE milk babies should consume. Such was my curiosity that I asked one of my uncles about taurine. It turns out that he, too, was so enticed by that commercial that he researched on the importance of taurine. He told me that taurine was, in fact, essential in retina development but the good (or bad?) news was that we (and babies, too) needed very minute amounts of it and that it was actually abundant in animal protein (that's meat of fish, beef, etc.) So as long as you eat properly, you can get it. That was the first time I realized that commercials are able to make you believe what they want you to believe without outrightly lying.

Fast forward 15 years, I totally forgot about that TV commercial. I conducted a consumer research study on the marketing practices of formula milk companies. Since I didn't know anything about formula nor about breastfeeding, and of course, like any good researcher, I tackled the project without any bias.

I interviewed pediatricians and pediatrician's secretaries (They are the ones who keep samples of the goodies distributed by the milk companies' sales reps. Hahaha!), inspected in-store advertising, watched numerous TV commercials, scanned print ads, interviewed Milk Code experts, etc.  

Aside from delving into the usual marketing tactics (getting an endorser, distributing stuff with the  milk's logo, paying stores to be put in eye-level shelves, etc), I analyzed their claims. I was not a chemist nor a biologist nor a medical doctor so I didn't study the contents of the milk and if they had what they said they had. Just their marketing claims. 

The buzz word during the time we conducted the research was DHA. A very popular series of commercials during that time implied that the intake of their milk resulted to gifted kids. It was so popular that adults were jokingly referred to as "Promil Kids" when they were being smart. :) So I researched on DHA and learned that its addition to formula milk was so important such that the pricing tier depended on its presence. The cheapest milk in the market didn't have it. The middle-market had DHA-precursors (essential fatty acids LA and  ALA which will be converted to DHA and other fatty acids by the body). And the top of the line (i.e., most expensive milk brands) had DHA and EPA. My interest was piqued and I researched more (I mean more than what was needed in the study) and learned that DHA is indeed very important in the development of the brain. 

During this time, my then-boyfriend (now husband) asked me which of the milk brands I would give to our future kids. It was a an easy question; of course I would give the most expensive brands with ready-made DHA and other fatty acids. Of course I'd want the "best" for my babies! Who wouldn't want their kids to be gifted?

Since I'm guest posting here, it's obvious that I am now into breastfeeding. :) So what made me change my mind? Well, two things clinched it. First, I talked to an uncle and told him about the study. (Yup, the same one who researched on taurine. He's really into the health stuff.) He made me realize that bottomline, infant formulas were developed to substitute for breastmilk. I am ashamed to admit that I was shocked. That never occured to me. Cow's milk was something I grew up with. I had no breastfeeding models (mothers personally known to me who breastfed) so it was a fact of life for me that you get your milk from a can. I do not recall seeing anyone breastfeed except for one mother who breastfed her crying child in the jeep I was riding. So when my uncle told me that formulas are just substitutes, my perspective changed. Why give a substitute if I can give my future babies the real thing? My uncle even told me that until now (or until then, rather), in fact, research was still being done on the makeup of breastmilk because it still had "ingredients" and nutrition that had not been discovered yet which they still need to imitate. So the reason why they added DHA into formula was because breastmilk already had DHA. I honestly thought that research had made them realize the importance of DHA that was why they fortify formula milk with it. As it turned out, they were still just imitating breastmilk. So as long as the mom eats well, giving your babies DHA for optimal brain development was a no-brainer (pun intended).

Second, and this really clinched it for me because I love green mangoes, I learned that a good source of DHA is bagoong*. BAGOONG!!! Why buy expensive milk when you can give the optimal nutrition to your baby by eating bagoong and giving him your breast? LOL!

It was funny when you really think about it. You'd realize that as long as a good slogan was thought of, sales would come in. Another milk brand's slogan was about the calcium you can get from their milk. When you stop for five seconds and actually just think about it, all milk are rich sources of calcium. You don't need a special milk to get calcium.

It really is all about marketing. And yes, commercials can make you believe what they want you to believe without outwardly lying. As weird as it is, doing a study on infant formula made me realize the power of breastmilk. I sought my boyfriend's support as early as then as I promised myself that I would breastfeed. And I am happy to say, he's still supporting me up to now and I am still keeping that promise. :)

* bagoong - salted shrimp paste 


Erlaine G. said...

Hi! n@wie here. I was able to breastfeed my daughter 2 yrs ago for only 2 months :( I had lil knowledge abt breastfeeding especially the need for being persistent. I have read the importance of it before giving birth and really planned to exclusively bf. But I lacked support. I promised myself to go for it on our next baby :) Glad that there are many n@wies  who can support and teach.

For BF advocates there, you might want to have this shirt:

marissa said...

Hi! Fellow N@Wie here...very encouraging lahat ng posts about bf. Before kasi I asked my pedia wht brand of milk I can gjve my baby. He gave me one and I bought it for emergency purposes. But it was never opened kasi I stumbled upon this blog and all those beliefs regarding formula milk were all gone. Thank you. I hope all mothers will get to read posts like these for them to open up their minds regarding bf. :)

Kariz Vergel de Dios said...

LOL at nobrainer :P

Jenny said...

alam mo naman milk companies. will try to make simple things complicated!

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