Weight Watchers is using bold strategies and a tailored approach to blaze new trails in the weight-loss industry.
In the fiercely competitive weight-loss sector, Weight Watchers has positioned itself as an innovative player.
In 2010, Weight Watchers Australasia struck a deal with McDonald’s New Zealand, which saw it endorse three of its meals. It then went on to launch a successful low-kilojoule beverage range in partnership with McWilliam’s Wines. Then there are the recently launched Weight Watchers Lifestyle Centres in major shopping centres and an increasingly popular online program, as well as a smartphone application, which is often singled out as one of the best in the category.
Weight Watcher’s offline approach sees more than one million people around the globe attend weekly meetings, with up to 200,000 active members gathering each week in Australia alone.
IBISWorld estimates the weight-loss sector in Australia to be worth more than $747 million annually. “The Australian market has always been incredibly competitive, probably the most competitive in the world,” says Michael Burgess, Weight Watchers General Manager, Marketing, for Australasia.
Keep the brand fresh
So, how has Weight Watchers stayed ahead of the pack? It has moved beyond its core diet plan operation to now include a range of cookbooks, a health and lifestyle magazine and approximately 140 licensed products and 45 Weight Watchers endorsed products.
The Lifestyle Centres at Myer stores around the country allow members to schedule a 15-minute, one-on-one session with a consultant. “The retail store suits many customers better,” says Burgess. “Not every person thinking about losing weight wants to join in a group support session. This is about tailoring solutions to the different needs out there.”
He describes the growth of Weight Watchers’ online offering as “phenomenal”.
“Online has become an increasingly important channel for consumers to research, transact and receive service offerings.”
These new developments are part of the wide-scale transformation of Weight Watchers Australasia and reflect a new focus on the modern customer.
Shape changes around customers’ needs
In January 2010, Weight Watchers launched a major campaign called “Approved by Life”, centred on the idea that customers can still enjoy life by making sensible food choices. The Weight Watchers message was that it was all about informed choice rather than diet dictatorship.
Two months later, Weight Watchers controversially announced its decision to endorse three McDonald’s meals. Weight Watchers regularly assesses takeaway foods but had never previously endorsed a quick service restaurant.
“There was an opportunity to make a much bolder stand and that is exactly what the McDonald’s partnership is about,” offers Burgess. “We say that if you are going to eat takeaway then there is a role for us to play in giving you guidance.”
The partnership attracted some negative press and the Weight Watchers website gave members a chance to voice their opinion. “The vast majority of members have been incredibly positive about it,” says Burgess.
Direct mail has been an important part of the brand revitalisation as the company shifts away from high-volume, low-frequency mail-outs. Weight Watchers has also improved the way it analyses and consolidates customer data, using it to launch highly segmented and targeted direct-mail campaigns.
“It’s about taking a consumer view of the world, taking the research and insights from the studies and engaging customers from their point of view,” says Burgess.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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