Weight Watchers Has a New Non-Diet Plan and Oprah Supports It

Susanna Sisson's picture
Weight Watchers New Plan and WW Logo

When companies and stock holders see declines in profits they know it’s time to reevaluate their marketing plan and Weight Watchers International, Inc (WW) is no different. What the 52 year old company hopes to do in order to rally from the loss of 1.4 million subscribers is to change the way people look at their company and losing weight, and they’ve done 3 things to rejuvenate - sold part of the company to billionaire Oprah Winfrey for her star power appeal, added new tools to help subscribers, and rebranded the company from a diet to a change they are calling “Beyond the Scale”, a refreshing idea at the very least.

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The Weight Watchers new plan seems to be working both physically and fiscally for Ms. Winfrey who lost 20 pounds and increased her initial investment of $43 million to $200 million, at least on paper. Stock prices have more than tripled since the announcement. Even so, they have a way to go to recuperate lost profits that are still 75% below a high of $6.2 billion set in May 2011, but Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Nicholas Hotchkin says “It’ll only take a small percentage to make a meaningful impact.”

Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale Strategy

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Weight Watcher’s strategy is to target their core buyers, middle aged women and encourage weekly participation at meetings but have changed the structure from lectures to more of a support group. Past strategies to market to younger people and men had failed, so, the decision was made to reach out to their tried and true market.

Weight Watchers CEO James Chambers also considered a name change but instead opted to keep the name and use the initials WW more in their advertising. Winfrey has been an active player in the new development plans and a seat on the board of directors was part of the requirement to close the deal which she had turned down in the past. She recently filmed a new ad campaign in her back yard.

The new “Beyond the Scale” encourages a true lifestyle change including short periods of exercise and “me time” along with eating more lean protein, vegetables and fruits and less sugar and processed foods.

The company admits it’s had some technical difficulties with the changes and new tools specifically the app. Despite increased profits, customer reviews about the new tools have not been favorable but the new plan does seem to be worthwhile for losing weight and is a more sustainable long-term program. Before anyone throws the baby out with the bathwater I suggest giving the company time to work out the glitches.

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