Socially “Unacceptable” Breastfeeding

I realize this isn’t a purely marketing/advertising oriented topic, but it doesn’t speak well for Delta Airline’s brand. And it’s an example of how one small incident can blow up to tarnish the carefully crafted market perception of any corporate brand image.

I’m in disbelief over the news that Emily Gillette, 27, of Santa Fe, N.M., was removed from a Delta Airlines plane bound for New York City for breastfeeding her baby at the back of the plane. Can anyone please explain to me what is going on in our culture with respect to the obviously human and natural need to breastfeed in public? This is one incident Delta is going to have to handle very delicately. Say she was wrong, and you disenfranchize a large portion of your public, say she’s right, and you position yourself as “too liberal”. Catch 22 for Delta.

Personally, I don’t understand why breastfeeding your baby (in private or public) can be seen as socially unacceptable. Why do we continue to think of women’s breasts primarily in a sexual way? Breasts are not genitals, and are naturally designed to feed babies. Why do we insist on making them “dirty” and sexual in every nearly every context? If men could breastfeed, this would be a non sequitur.

Okay…maybe she could have just covered up with a blanket, and quieted the staff. And perhaps there were issues that the baby is 22 months old, and her nipple may have been partially exposed. Would this have not been an issue if the baby was 2 months old instead of 22 months? Should that matter?

Which would you rather have onboard YOUR next flight? A quietly fed infant, or a screaming baby and frustrated Mother?

From a marketing perspective, this is a great example of what a brand is. It’s not just your logo or tagline, but how you’re image is perceived – and flows through every aspect of your operation. When one policy or customer interaction becomes negative, it can easily “take-down” the brand itself. And when that happens, you’ll feel it financially.

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