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Marketing Has More of An Impact Than You Might Think - Just Ask Weight Watchers

Last year, WeightWatchers, around for more than fifty years, decided to shift their focus and rebrand. Wanting to expand their horizons beyond being just a weight-loss program, and wanting to introduce this new mission to the world, they changed their name. Did you know this?

Neither did we. Based on the numbers, most consumers did not. WeightWatchers, one of the most iconic weight loss companies in the world, backed by one of the most recognizable people in the world (Oprah Winfrey) reported a ten percent drop in membership to start this year.


The beginning of the year is usually when weight loss, fitness and health-related companies make hay. But WeightWatchers, not only couldn’t capitalize on it by earning new clients, they fell backward. Because of the reported hiccup, shares have fallen and money Oprah invested in the company (nearly $50 million) will essentially be nullified.


So, what was their new name? They shortened it to WW in order to reflect that they offered more than just weight loss services. The logic is sound.


If you started as a doughnut shop, but now have as many non-doughnut products that you’d like to push as you do doughnuts, a little branding adjustment would be in order. Dunkin just did this recently, and as odd as it is to refer to the chain by just one word, it has worked so far.


So what went wrong with WeightWatchers? Well, according to their CEO who had to own up to all of it, the issue was their marketing strategy and execution.


Marketing is more than good ideas. Even the very best marketing idea for the easiest business to market can fall flat and fail if the execution isn’t focused and intelligent.

It was probably was (and could still be) in the company’s best interest to transition away from the name “WeightWatchers” - it now has a very specific connotation and meaning, limiting the possibility for growth in other arenas in a time when health and fitness businesses are booming.


But the execution was not right. It was rushed and confusing, leaving many consumers and potential customers not to know who or what they were in the most pivotal time of year for their business. They’re now paying the price.


Consumers need to be shepherded - attention spans are short. People want to get the answers they want as quickly as possible. The best marketing plan is simple, direct and focused. If your marketing is confusing, too busy or trying to accomplish too many things at once, consumers aren’t going to stop to ask you to explain more. They’re going to move on.


Reportedly, WeightWatcher’s new approach will be Oprah-heavy, and it will be patient. They’ll go by their old name and slowly phase in their new, shortened yet broader nickname. It will take a long time to recondition habits and it will take a very concerted and likely expensive marketing effort; but in the long run, it likely will work.


Consider this for your small business. If a company as big as WeightWatchers with a personality as huge as Oprah behind it needs a lot of time and a lot of money JUST to tell people they want to go by WW, your small business needs to have marketing that even more compact, concise and patient.

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