Weight Watchers re-vamp their brand

Screen shot 2011-01-20 at 15.15.07 Marketing's profile of brand leader Lindsay Reisser-Weston, Marketing Director of Weight Watchers (WW), gives some great insight into how she is leading renovation of the brand.

1. Renovate the core product or service

Lindsay is leading a renovation of the core WW service. The new "ProPoints" system takes accounts of a range of food types in calculating the number of points for what you eat (you have to stick to a set number of points a day). The new plan takes account of carbohydrates, fat, protein and fibre, as well as the energy used to digest foods, not just calories and saturated-fat content.

This is a great example of looking back at what made you famous, the points system, but then renovating it to keep up with trends, in this case new diets that go beyond calorie counting.

The brand is investing heavily in an advertising, with £28m in spending planned on its 2011 ad campaign. But this spend is directed behind "new news" which should help provoke non-users to consider the brand. And show existing users that the brand is keeping up with the times.

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2. Don't understand the consumer. BE the consumer

According to the article Lindsay "Signed up to Weight Watchers in 1996, with a wedding on the horizon, and lost 31lbs in nine months. Enthused, she became a leader in her spare time." By being the consumer of the category she works on, Lindsay has a much deeper, emotional understanding of the category and brand than she would get from hundreds of focus groups. In addition, she and her team get really close to the competition by "trying other weight-loss programmes available, from rival Slimming World to Alli diet pills.

3. New routes-to-consumer

WW is a good example of working on new routes to the consumer. Though their NHS (National Health Service) referral scheme doctors in two-thirds of Primary Care Trusts in England can now prescribe a course of Weight Watchers. Another trial-generating scheme used in the US and Germany is "At Work", where employers offer Weight Watchers as a staff perk, hosting meetings at work. Finally, the UK team are looking at high street shops and concessions in other stores.

4. Membership-based business

WW has been around for 35 years, but in a way its a very modern business. Lots of people are talking about the importance of creating brand communities. Well, the whole WW business is built on being a big club, with 2 million members. Interestingly, in an online world, WW show that there is still an opportunity for brands based on human contact: 80% of the business still comes from the meetings business, where people meet and encourage each other to meet their goals.

In conclusion, a great example of brand renovation by really understanding your consumer, your brand and the way the market is evolving. The Pro Points re-launch happened earlier in Europe, and 2010 business was up 15%. I expect the UK to have a successful 2011.