Inspiring Consumers Enough to Grow During a Recession

October 22, 2011

By Telisa Yancy, Director Advertising, Brand and Media

According to Cheryl Callan, SVP of Marketing for Weightwatchers, the "Do it Yourself" weight loss industry is a $460 Billion Dollar industry. Since its founding, Weightwatchers has competed as social business in the sub category of the industry, called weight management (this portion of the weight loss industry is a $3.7BB dollar industry).  The growth dilemma facing Weightwatcher was how to be as a "social" business when the service they provide consumers is the ultimate purchase that "can wait". 

The process that Cheryl and her agency team, led by Nick Brien of McCann Worldwide, involved getting back to it's roots and becoming relevant by getting out of the persuasion business and going back to providing a platform and the tools for consumers to inspire each other to achieve their weight loss goals. 

Like many of the other speakers on day one of this year's conference, unlocking success for Weight Watchers required that the team take risk and adapt quickly if the early indicators did not show signs of success.  The Weight Watchers team learned that some creative executions test well but they do not change consumer behavior or improve sales, and therefore had to be scrapped.  The other risk that the team took, that definitively paid off, was to make a significant product innovation and to simultaneously embrace the idea of finding the ultimate influencer/advocate that would inspire consumers that they could be successful with the program.   The combination of the new "points plus" program and the partnership with Oscar and Grammy award winner, Jennifer Hudson has increased enrollments 19 percent.  Mr. Brien indicated that the success of the brand has experienced boils down to:

  • 1) Understanding how to capitalize on the business using social media, rather than just doing social marketing
  • 2) Maintaining its heritage of being a brand on a mission, rather than a mercenary brand (sell and abandon which is typical in the weight loss category...remember that gym membership that you aren't using).

In the end, Weight Watchers has reinvigorated their brand in the midst of a recession by doing what they have always done-staying fanatically true to their brand, leveraging their past success of letting consumers sell the success of the program to each other.   

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