Each year over 750,000 women in the UK become pregnant, according
to the Bounty/Market Trend Fact File. They, and the 650,000 babies they
eventually deliver, will spend pounds 270 million on baby equipment,
consume pounds 293 million worth of baby foods and drinks, and dispose
of pounds 649 million worth of nappies.
Add to this the huge market in mothers’ nutritional supplements, infant
medicine, baby clothes and toys, and it is clear that babies are
From the moment of conception, through the pregnancy, birth and beyond,
a mother and her child represent a valuable commercial opportunity. With
a little careful nurturing, and some appropriately applied promotional
pampering, a woman’s happiest moment can generate a number of brand
loyalties that will last for years to come.
It is no surprise, therefore, that companies with products aimed at
pregnant women and new parents are queuing up in search of PR
opportunities to help to increase their market share.
But marketing to mothers-to-be is a delicate area that needs a
sensitiveapproach to PR. Good PR can help create a mutually beneficial
relationship between mother and company. The mother gains access to
information, services and products that ease her through her pregnancy
and into motherhood, while the company gains an influential foothold
within a valuable market. Bad PR, however, can leave the mother feeling
exploited while the client and agency end up with a lot of powdered milk
on their face.
The first challenge to any PR agency seeking to target its activities at
pregnant women is to identify the market. This may sound easy, but by
the time a woman has ’announced her pregnancy’ by shopping at
Mothercare, buying a copy of Mother and Baby magazine or joining the
local antenatal classes, many promotional opportunities have already
At Bates Healthcom the account team working to promote Baby Savlon is
well aware that a new mother will probably have made up her mind what
products she wants to use well before the baby is born.
Group account director Stephen Phair explains: ’There’s a lot of
sophisticated research done in this area which suggests that brand
loyalty is achieved as early as the third month of pregnancy. So in some
cases you might argue that the marketers know about the pregnancy before
the father does.’
This message is echoed by Alison Munro, managing director at Munro and
’A woman preparing to give birth tends to be interested in anything to
do with babies. She’ll read everything she can and retain a lot of that
information. But once she’s had her baby she’s far too busy to be
reading women’s magazines.’
Munro and Forster has recently taken on the account for Warner
Lambert,whose Calpol product is a massive market leader. Director Julie
Flexen explains how the agency targets health professionals in order to
ensure that its messages are delivered in the very early stages of
’Pregnant women are incredibly hungry for information so it is important
to have a presence wherever they may appear. This means directing your
activities at GPs, pharmacists, counter assistants, health visitors and
Sponsored educational initiatives, training materials, surgery posters
and patient leaflets are all time-honoured mechanisms of ensuring a
client’s name and brand are well-recognised by influential
When Munro and Forster was asked by the Health Education Authority to
produce materials to encourage pregnant women to give up smoking it
produced a baby monitor booklet which helped women produce a diary of
Through an agreement with Boots The Chemists the booklet was offered to
every woman buying a pregnancy testing kit in a Boots store.
Promoting the HEA’s advice on the use of folic acid is another example
where women must be targeted in the earliest stages or preferably before
Folic acid deficiency is one of the primary causes of spina bifida.
Current HEA advice is for all women who are trying to become pregnant to
increase their intake of folic acid by taking a 400mg supplement every
day, increasing their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and eating
fortified foods such as cereals and bread. These measures should be
started before the pregnancy and continued for the first three
’Ideally we want to be talking to women before they even become
pregnant,’ says Munro.
Again, this means targeting health professionals so that the message on
folic acid comes across loud and clear during routine consultations,
well woman clinics and contraception advice.
As in any area of PR, if promotional material is to have any influence
on mothers-to-be, it not only has to be seen, it has to be believed. To
achieve this credibility it is imperative that the agency develops a
close relationship with the doctors, midwives, nurses and pharmacists
who will care for a woman throughout her pregnancy.
Alison Clarke, chief executive of Welbeck Golin/Harris, is a firm
believer in talking to health professionals and consumer groups.
’Professional such as GPs, health visitors, practice nurses and school
nurses are the gatekeepers to the NHS and their views are very
influential,’ she explains.
So, to ensure that its activities and materials remain truly relevant to
the intended audience, the agency has set up a ’knowledge group’
consisting of various experts with direct experience in the needs of new
mothers and their children.
This group is used to gauge the views, needs and consumer preferences of
mothers and thereby guide the PR activities in a direction that will
have the most effect.
The agency also maintains regular dialogue with GPs, health
visitors,practice nurses and school nurses. Once a year extensive
research is carried out with a panel of experts from the healthcare
’This helps us ensure that all our literature is up-to-date and relevant
to the needs of its target audience,’ says Clarke.
One message that comes across loud and clear from all the research is
that pregnant women and new mothers are particularly receptive to
educational messages on health and hygiene. Thus Welbeck Golin/Harris’
Domestos campaign includes a long-running educational programme aimed at
The educational approach has also been taken on board by many other
Bates Healthcom’s Baby Savlon campaign has just produced the Savlon
Guide to Baby Skin Care which it aims to distribute to every new mother
in the country.
The Red Consultancy is running baby massage workshops as part of
Johnson’s Baby’s Importance of Touch campaign. And Munro and Forster is
distributing a Guide to Common Childhood Ailments sponsored by Calpol
manufacturer Warner Lambert.
Most PR professionals working in the field agree that a woman’s
priorities tend to change once she becomes pregnant and that promotional
and educational activities need to take this into account.
According to Lesley Brend, managing director of The Red Consultancy
which handles the Johnson’s Baby account, it is important that PR
materials and activities show a true understanding of the woman’s
concerns for herself and her child.
’It’s almost self evident, but you have to take a very sensitive and
empathetic approach. And above all you have to know your subject. You
have a responsibility to make sure you are well-informed.’
However, Munro and Forster’s Flexen warns against thinking of pregnant
women as a single homogenous group.
’You have to remember there are still several different audiences there.
The profiles remain and these women are still individuals.’
INFANT FORMULA: OVERCOMING THE PROMOTIONAL HURDLES
If there is one product used by new mothers that is guaranteed to raise
the hackles of child care professionals it is infant formula.
Castigated for its nutritional content and implicated in an increased
risk of infection during preparation, infant formula has become the bete
noir of child care.
However, most infants do still receive formula milk at some time during
their first year of life.
So how do new mothers obtain information they need to choose between the
different available brands? The answer is with great difficulty.
All direct promotion of infant formula was banned under the Infant
Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations 1995, which followed EC
All information concerning the product must make it clear that formula
is in no way equivalent or superior to breast milk. It must include
specific hygiene directions on the preparation of formula and no
photographs of babies are allowed.
This leaves few avenues open to the formula companies trying to inform
’Most mums find out about us through health professionals or by
contacting the company directly,’ says Cow and Gate’s head of corporate
affairs Helen Messenger.
According to Catherine McCormick, head of external affairs at the Royal
College of Midwives, health professionals are unlikely to recommend
individual brands of infant formula, but will discuss differences there
may be between products.
’While we certainly support the EC regulations regarding promotion of
formulas, we also support a philosophy of choice,’ she says. ’We
therefore don’t discourage midwives from discussing differences between
different brands of formula.’
The public relations exercises of companies such as Cow and Gate
concentrate on promoting their range of baby foods and increasing brand
awareness of the company name. Cow and Gate also runs the In-Touch
direct mailing scheme. This is a programme of four mailings aimed at
mothers-to-be recruited through antenatal clinics, GPs’ surgeries and
Mailings are sent from 28 weeks of pregnancy to five months after
The packs contain items such as food samples, nursery thermometers and
information on Cow and Gate infant formulas.
This will, however, change next year when new regulations come into
force preventing infant formula companies offering any information at
all about their products.
’If you ring me asking if our formula is suitable for vegetarians, I
won’t be allowed to tell you,’ says Messenger.
LABOUR PAINS: RED PUSHES A ONE-TO-ONE WITH A MIDWIFE
Helping to change the scenario in which women give birth might seem a
steep challenge for any PR agency. But this, in effect, was what the Red
Consultancy was asked to do when commissioned by Johnson and Johnson to
publicise a report on one-to-one midwife care.
The report followed a study at Queen Charlotte’s and Hammersmith
Hospitals showing that traditional one-to-one midwife care resulted in
less surgery, fewer pain relieving drugs and less post-natal depression
than the current NHS system.
Although the study had been funded by Johnson and Johnson’s
Philanthropic Committee, Red’s priority was to raise awareness of the
report’s findings rather than the company’s branding.
At first sight this did not seem an easy task. The report had been
published six months previously and had made little impact in the
medical or general media.
Red therefore decided on a relaunch with the appropriate PR support.
Having studied the report in detail to confirm its credibility the
agency conducted preliminary message testing among NHS Hospital Trusts,
midwives, other healthcare professionals, the media and some known
Real-life mothers and midwives were then recruited to provide
media-friendly case studies.
To ensure that the messages generated by the relaunch remained
consistent, Red set up a ’cross-functional issues team’. This group,
which included representatives from Queen Charlotte’s Hospital and
Johnson and Johnson, was given a full briefing on issues likely to arise
and armed with detailed questions and answers.
The relaunch itself was announced by contacting every health, women’s
and social affairs correspondent.
’We felt it was a message for all, so we didn’t just concentrate on the
specialist parenting media,’ explains Red managing director Lesley
This blanket approach was fully justified by the media’s response. On
the day of the launch broadcast interviews started at six in the morning
and continued throughout the day. The study was covered on BBC news, ITN
and Radio 4’s Today programme. A few weeks later 44 items of media
coverage with an estimated reach of 59 million had been achieved.
But more gratifying than the coverage was the response from health
professionals and mothers. Health Trusts and mothers throughout the
country have started requesting the report and a number of hospitals
have pledged to trial one-to-one midwifery.
’It’s very rewarding to know that you have helped spread the message and
mobilise people to action,’ says Brend.
BAG LADIES: BOUNTY’S WELCOME FOR NEW ARRIVALS
After 40 years of providing new mothers with free goods, services
andinformation the Bounty Group has become almost a national
institution.The company now claims to deliver its Bounty Bags to 95 per
cent of all expectant mothers, a distribution rate aided by the fact
that Bounty has agreements with every hospital in the country apart from
The bags contain a wide variety of information, product samples, free
goods, and discount vouchers for a range of products and services.The
system is also used by Government agencies to distribute health
education material and official forms.
’Bounty bags are now the principal route by which Department of
SocialSecurity Child Benefit Allowance application forms are
distributed,’ claims Bounty’s director of operations Nick
The Bounty Bag is therefore an obvious route for companies looking to
distribute material to expectant mothers and new parents. Companies
currently using Bounty range from baby product manufacturers such as
Johnson and Johnson to toy companies such as Lego to charities such as
the Meningitis Trust.
Distribution of material can also be targeted to local areas - for
instance the Welsh Language Board uses the system to distribute material
to mothers in Wales.
However, in order to be included within a Bounty Bag promotional
material must pass through a fairly rigorous ’Best Practice’, vetting
Bounty runs all material and product samples past a team of local
midwives, health visitors and other health professionals to ensure
nothing unsuitable is distributed.
’Obviously we couldn’t operate without the respect of the hospitals we
work with. So we do follow a fairly stringent best practice policy and
if the material is not up to standard we will say ’no’,’ says
Hopewell-Smith. Material likely to fail the test includes the promotion
of infant formulas and anything that seeks to ’medicalise pregnancy.’
There are three Bounty Bags which are delivered at different times
before and after the birth. The first is distributed in the antenatal
clinic and includes a pregnancy guide, a maternity services booklet
specific to that particular hospital and educational leaflets. The
second bag, delivered in hospital after the baby has been born, contains
a New Mother Pack. The third bag, designed to be picked up when the
child is four months old, contains a Baby Progress Pack and is
distributed through Boots the Chemists.