Big news today as Oprah Winfrey has acquired a 10% stake in Weight Watchers and will become the face of the brand (in fact, Oprah’s iconic motivational smile already graces the company’s homepage). Will Oprah be able to add the magic touch to this company, launched in 1963 as in person support groups, but struggling to remain relevant due to digital competitors and free options?
They’ll have to face the 15,000 pound industry in order to do so. According to a report by Fortune and ITG Investment Research (http://fortune.com/2015/01/07/weight-watchers-lesya-lysyj/) there are more than 15,000 other health and fitness apps available that range from being free to have a monthly subscription.
With all this digital disruption, Weight Watchers had to innovate its product. On the tech side, Weight Watchers now cites having more than 50% of their subscribers as “digital only” and have revamped their entire mobile and desktop web experiences to be up to par with their competitors. This all seems like a move in the right direction. And, new innovations like the personal coach and 24/7 chatroom seem to fulfill a consumer demand to have more high-touch experience from a web based product.
But, even with Oprah at their side, and a revamped customer experience. The most important thing that Weight Watchers has going for it is: it actually works. The same Fortune article cites a study by the Baylor College of Medicine that on average weight loss for participants on Weight Watchers was 10.1 lbs versus 1.3 lbs for those in self-help groups.
So, this is where the brand fails. In none of their new 2015 TV campaigns does the company effectively communicate what they do. Most of what I can find online falls into the bucket of being a “category sell”. It’s not until 55-seconds into some of these ads that I even seen the Weight Watcher name referenced. The “Join for Free” offer is a classic direct response tactic, but the challenge is that their competitors are ALWAYS FREE.
While there is value in making an emotive connection with the customers, and these ads are entertaining, there needs to be a better balance of effectively communicating what the company does, and why it’s different than the 15,000 other options. Dare I say, the proof is in the pudding… or, perhaps something healthier than that 🙂
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Below are some of their most recent ads from 2015:
“All You Can Eat” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvUO_jU8XlI
“If You’re Happy and You Know It” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNPLuSx_06U