Weight Watchers: the skinny on transforming a brand during a recession

October 22, 2011

By Martha Young, FM Global

As a self-proclaimed "repeat offender" and brand advocate of the Weight Watchers program, I had a vested interest in Senior Vice President of Marketing's Cheryl Callan Friday afternoon presentation at the Masters of Marketing Annual Conference in Phoenix.

As a "Lifetime" member of Weight Watchers, I've counted enough Points and Points Plus to make an accountant blush. It is through the lens of my 10-year relationship with the brand that I listened intently to Callan's business challenge: transforming the Weight Watcher's brand during a recession.

Callan, with the assistance of agency partner McCann WorldGroup's Nick Brien, outlined the brand evolution: telling the story of Weight Watchers through inspiration versus persuasion. Together, they carried us through the story of marketing weight loss--often seen as self-indulgent--during tough economic times. We saw the comparisons of Weight Watchers' previous campaign of telling consumers how to lose weight versus the current campaign allowing Weight Watchers members tell us their weight loss success stories.

Callan shared some frightening statistics:
1. The average woman tries 15 diets during her lifetime
2. 90% of dieters regain weight during their lifetime
3. On average, women spend 25 years of their lives on a diet

Callan and Brien, in their presentation, told the story of differentiating Weight Watchers from its competitors.  In launching its first innovation in 13 years, the Points Plus Program captures Weight Watchers not as a being a weight loss program, but rather a platform for talking about success. The end result: the incredible weight loss journey of singer Jennifer Hudson.

Ultimately, the success of Weight Watchers is in the facts--a 19 percent increase in enrollment during challenging economic times and in becoming a brand on a mission to inspire Americans to lose weight.

What are your thoughts on the Weight Watchers Points Plus campaign? Chime in with your comments below.

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