On September 24th 2018, WeightWatchers – the company started in 1963 and now operating in over 30 countries and worth several hundred million dollars – announced that it would be rebranding and be henceforth known as WW. The rationale given was that the change is  necessary in order to keep pace with modern thinking, which is more about health and wellbeing than simply weight loss. It’s hard to think of a worse business decision, and I barely know where to begin. Let’s start with the new name.

WW hardly trips off the tongue, and it means absolutely nothing. In interviews last week, the company chief executive failed to explain what it means. The W’s don’t stand for ‘weight’ or ‘wellness’ though. She made that much clear. If the company did need rebranding (more about that in a moment) the new name needed to be either catchy or memorable or meaningful – or ideally, a combination of all three. The new name is is none of these things.

But why change the brand  at all? WeightWatchers is a household name, with a standing built up over the past 50 years. The value tied up in the brand is incalculable, and yet they just decided to throw it away.  Of course weight isn’t the only important factor, but the company should really be self-aware enough to know the primary motivation why people subscribe. It’s not to be healthier, happier or fitter. It’s because they want to shift some damned weight and look better! Whilst it might be politically correct to pretend otherwise, political correctness doesn’t equate to profits. Look at the other major competitor in the market – Slimming World. It does what it says on the tin, which WeightWatchers did – until now.

One thing I’ve found over the years is that trying to sell people what they need rather than what they want is a big mistake. People want to lose weight and look better. They’ve proved that they’ll pay money – and lots of it – for help with that. Anything that distracts from that core message diminishes the brand and dilutes the message in my view.

It will be interesting to see how the new branding goes down over the next couple of years. My prediction is that there will be a realisation that this is an almighty cock up, followed by a tactical return to the core messages and benefits that have built the company to where it is. We’ll just have to wait and see though. I could be wrong. It happens!

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