Corporate responsibility or corporate confusion?

Ruth Mortimer is Marketing Week’s associate editor and a prolific blogger. She won a PPA Award for her forthright and insightful columns on marketing.


So Diageo are spending a lot of cash to train 10,000 midwives to offer pregnant women advice on risks of consuming alcohol. Which I find a bit confusing.

Now, I’m all for corporate responsibility. Companies should be responsible about how their consumers use their products. So I think it is eminently sensible for Diageo to explain safe portion sizes to drinkers, not market their products in an irresponsible way to suggest binge drinking and so on.

But my experience of being pregnant is that midwives generally tell you to avoid alcohol altogether. Yes, they don’t beat you or anything if you confess to a very occasional half-glass of fizz, but mainly the message based on current advice is “stay away”.

So where is the business merit for Diageo in telling women to stay away? And why do midwives need training on this subject anyway? Surely the only useful training would be in cases where too much booze is being consumed, in which case the midwives need more skills to help these pregnant women stop. Again, leading to the question – how does that benefit Diageo?

It may be that there is no business imperative for Diageo with this scheme. But then I question why a brand should be funding our health service? Are we having our paid taxes stripped away from midwife training because we hope booze businesses will pick up the tab? That all seems a bit weird. What’s next – McDonald’s sponsors doctors telling you not to eat junk food? Responsibility is always a good thing; but I just don’t see how this project fits Diageo’s brand or customers.

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