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What’s gone wrong at Weight Watchers?

by | Apr 10, 2019

Rebranding is a brave and fun way to freshen up your company’s image, if it’s done correctly. It’s also an incredibly risky move, if you’re a renowned brand. Which was the case with Weight Watchers recent rebranding experience.

What’s in a name?

Adopting WW as a name but not identifying whether it stands for ‘Weight Watchers’ or their new tagline, ‘Wellness that Works’ feels like a failed attempt of trying to be completely inclusive. In short, they are choosing to say, it can mean whatever you want it to mean.

That’s a risky decision to leave up to your clientele. How are they referring to their beloved brand now? Do they tell their friends about WW? Think about how that sounds. It’s not catchy. It doesn’t conjure any image at all of what the company is about.

Their reason for this change was that they wanted to move away from using the term ‘weight’. They felt it didn’t help to promote a body positive image of the company. They don’t want their clients to be fixated on weight and calorie counting – which is admirable. We have a love of respect for brands for who truly consider their customers.

But isn’t that the identity of Weight Watchers? That’s how it initially appealed to so many subscribers. People could discuss the Weight Watchers recipe they had for lunch. It felt like they were in a club with other people who had the same ambition. Which was to lose weight. Whether you believe in calorie counting or not fixating on weight isn’t really the obstacle here.

Rebranding for Weight Watchers

Appealing to a changing generation

The reason behind the rebrand was that they wanted to appeal to a changing generation, the millennials and the wellness movement. But how could they do that if their brand didn’t appear to be body positive?

The main problem that Weight Watchers probably didn’t understand was their own clientele. People have been loyal to the brand for years, some even for its 56 years of trading. So, why take the gamble of completely changing the name and face of such a renowned brand?

Weight Watchers could have started small. Their new tagline for instance and perhaps a change in their brand colour. But they decided to go all out and change the name. That’s an extremely bold move for a well-known business to make. It’s not just the name you’re changing, it’s also the identity of the brand.

The rebranding has been a big risk; Weight Watchers reported a drop of 600,000 subscribers in the second half of its financial year. If Oprah couldn’t help to rejuvenate Weight Watchers, then why did they think changing the name would be a good move?

You have to appreciate that they are trying to adapt to the changing times by working with influencers like Robbie Williams and DJ Khaled to appeal to the younger generation. But no amount of famous faces will make a rebrand catch on if they have ignored their own identity and clientele.

Know your brand

After all, Weight Watchers is a company that helps people to lose weight. If they are consciously distancing themselves from that, then what type of company are they?

Are they now only promoting healthy eating? If so, how are they different from every other healthy eating/wellness living company out there in this competitive industry? More importantly, why didn’t they think about that before changing their name?

There are many things that Weight Watchers could have done to subtly rebrand over a longer period which would have been less drastic for loyal subscribers.

Obviously rebranding can work for big companies – just take a look at Dunkin’ (previously known as Dunkin’ Donuts). They dropped the ‘Donuts’ and the coffee cup but kept their iconic orange and pink colours. This ensured they were still a recognisable brand but were no longer known for just selling donuts.

Before we receive any comments about it; we’re not being insensitive to Weight Watchers for comparing their rebrand to that of a donut franchise – Dunkin just did a good job of it!

It’s brave to take a gamble with a rebrand so we respect the Weight Watchers for taking it on. But sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a company with 56 years of trading under its belt; it’s a good idea to take it slow with changes so you can gain new customers and retain your old ones.

WW is here to stay according to their new chief executive so only time will tell if it can recover from their reported subscriber loss.

The biggest thing to take from this is; know your brand.

If you’d ever like to chat branding and design, feel free to give our team a call on 01743 491356 or fill in the enquiry form at the bottom.

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