Weight Watchers rebrand to WW. Bad move? Chris Moody thinks so and tells City AM why

This article was written by Chris Moody published by City AM

WW – the slimmed-down version of the brand formerly known as Weight Watchers – has forecast a 10 per cent drop in its membership over the first quarter of 2019. The “new year, new me” attitude should be attracting new members, but WW’s new identity has failed to tempt consumers.

Like a Kim Kardashian weight-loss lollipop, the rebrand claimed to have all the answers, bringing a big spoonful of modernity to a well-loved organisation, and moving it away from dieting and towards becoming a “wellness platform”.

But as a result of its vagueness, WW is now feeling the effects of losing a different type of pound. Primarily, this is because it forgot the one thing that matters most: the customers.

Fiddling with the name was daft. Nomenclature is notoriously one of the most difficult parts of brand identity creation – it needs to reflect everything you do, and reinforce your actions.

WW fails that test. The people who actually use it won’t call it by that name – it’s cold, it’s impersonal, it’s corporate. It loses what made Weight Watchers special: the idea that we can embrace who we are, but still make changes.

WW needs to bring that feeling back, and acknowledge that its core DNA could still make it stand out, by being communal, local, and above all personable and relatable.

The brand is relying on Oprah Winfrey to communicate more effectively to its customers, and she’ll be heading up its spring ad campaign. But this is not enough to bridge the divide that it has created in becoming WW.

In fact, it feels like it’s doubling down on its distance from real life. Oprah is about as far from #relatable as you can get. She’s a goddess from Planet Awesome – not a mate who’s going to empathise with your comfort eating.

WW has bags of potential and a strong ethos. It’s a positive, understanding brand that is built around helping people live healthier lifestyles, while advocating for its members to be proud of the bodies they have already.

We’ve seen other organisations get this message right. Sport England’s “This Girl Can” and Virgin Active’s “Enough” campaigns prove that healthy living can be approached with charm, style, and wit.

Brands are like software. They must evolve and adapt to the world that they find themselves in. However, too often businesses underestimate the very tangible value of their brand DNA.

WW is a community group: its users aren’t interested in bland, uniform, tech-inspired identities. They want to watch themselves and people like them change for the better. WW needs to stop looking for an easy fix, and work on its core proposition if it wants lasting results for its brand.