Corntroversy in the Mom-Blogosphere

In this post I’m attempting to remain somewhat neutral about the actual controversial parts, and just document a few things going on regarding the recent campaign for High Fructose Corn Syrup (now being rebranded as “Corn Sugar.”) My disclosure – I saw a “Corn Sugar is the same as Sugar” commercial and nearly spit hormone-packed milk out my nose. Poorly done, Corn Refiners Association. So I’m not totally neutral here – I’m not a fan of all this refined sugar stuff in general. But I eat and drink it. My kids do too, in moderation. I’ve been known to down a HFCS sweetened beverage now and then (I’ve been to Pepsi on a blog tour, even.)

Mom Central, an organization that “provide[s] strategic advice and resources to companies who want to reach the powerful Mom market” and “help[s] clients execute targeted marketing campaigns to Moms that build brand recognition and loyalty” was hired by the Corn Refiners association to do a webinar for moms educating them about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Mom Central has been in business for a pretty long time, and I met Stacy Debroff who runs it on several occasions. They are in business to create earned media for clients via blogs and other online activities (my words) and have a legitimate right to do so. They also have a “manifesto” (listed in the “borg post” referenced below) about how they work with moms.

The current situation: After their webinar, a bunch of mom bloggers posted entries about HFC. The first two posts below are somewhat skeptical, and the third post seems to to the Corn Refiner’s party line.

One post on Mom Central talks about the “False Health Halo” presented by brands advertising their products as HFCS free. Which became a bit of a challenge in some of the posts below since this summer, Mom Central also ran a sponsored conversation campaign about Hunts HFCS-Free ketchup. (Evidence: The Mommy Files did a review and notes she was compensated by Mom Central.)

I think the fact that Mom Central has come down on both sides of the good/bad HFCS debate is one of the things that lead to a bit of a backlash by Jessica Gotlieb, Mom101 and others. (full disclosure – I did “like” this post and comment as such – Jessica typically tells it like she sees it and I value that.)

After Mom 101 did her post, Stacy Debroff of Mom Central responded, saying of Mom101 :”So how did we arrive at the point yesterday where Liz derides many of her fellow Mom Bloggers as unintelligent, vulnerable to coercion, and naive in general and specifically when posting about high fructose corn syrup?”

There were apparently a lot of comments on Stacy’s post, but eventually she closed the post and deleted comments.

Mom101 responded with her own post about ethics and integrity, suggesting that she did not call the other moms what Debroff said she did, and calling Debroff out for closing off her discussion.

That’s how things seem to stand, today, at this moment.

I’ve tried to document this mostly so I can share it with my NYU students in my “Social Media and the Brand” class, so they can evaluate how campaigns can turn controversial, and how different tactics are used to promote or defend different sides of an issue.

I am not “blog baiting” or looking for lots of traffic here – just looking to document. If I’ve characterized anyone or anything, let me know via comments or via Twitter – @Howardgr.