The people, the planet, the can – The social marketing and re-branding of breastmilk

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Anna Coutsoudis, who established the first community-based breastmilk bank in South Africa and is a founding member of HMBASA (Human Milk Banking Association of South Africa) which she currently chairs; Shannon Kenny and Patrick Kenny and independent communication consultants; creative directors, Mixed Media, Durban.]

By Flickr user Gates Foundation (CC).

This chapter takes a closer look at a team composed of researchers and communicators, who have joined forces to address a common issue: re-branding of breastmilk/breastfeeding with the aim to decrease the risk of infant mortality. What are their similarities, differences and how are both ultimately reconciled? Also, the relationship between policymakers and their funders, and how they both communicate messages to the broader public is another one of the main questions at hand.

South Africa is one of the countries with an ever-increasing infant mortality rate. In fact it is one of the few countries where this has happened. Coutsoudis, Coovadia and King cited in The Lancet that research has shown how infant mortality is on the rise because of the increase in Formula Feeding. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of infant mortality. Unfortunately, formula feeding is increasing despite the fact that breastmilk is scientifically proven to be immeasurably better.

Unfortunately, breastmilk/breastfeeding do not have the advantage of better marketing and advertising. One solution to this problem is the re-branding of breastmilk/breastfeeding.

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