WW used a sledgehammer when a screwdriver would do

WW Facebook page

WW chief brand officer Gail Tifford said it herself in an interview with The Drum last September: “It’s not so much about the name change versus the substance of what we're really working on.”

So, why change the name at all… to a clunky acronym that takes longer to say than the weight management brand’s original name. Even with a tagline of 'Wellness that Works' (the new meaning of WW, I assume), the brand’s messaging still centers on weight loss. For example, WW’s current Facebook image is of three people captioned with how many pounds they’ve lost since joining WW. And the brand’s homepage features a hero image touting one member’s double-digit weight loss.

If you look back at many Weight Watchers campaigns, they’re about healthy eating and community; the focus isn’t solely on weight loss. In fact, for 55 years the company was called Weight Watchers, not Weight Losers. The message that has always come through its advertising, to me, has been, “Come to us to help to manage your weight by learning how to eat healthy while still enjoying food, fun, and friends.”

I asked Tifford what consumer research the company conducted before making the change. Her team responded citing a quote from an interview with The Wall Street Journal: "We conducted 26 focus groups in four countries including the US. It showed high awareness and appreciation for the WW name... It’s not easy finding something that can translate in 11 countries."

Tifford, rightly so, wants WW to be part of members’ conversations about more than just weight loss, pointing out the prevalence of “non-scale victories” — written as #nsv — on social. That hashtag, like many others, is simply a modern twist on one element of an age-old conversation. Non-scale victories have been an aspect of the community for years, as changing habits is essential to weight maintenance.

“I’ve been a member since 1989, sliding in and out as an active member throughout the years. I always went back because the program works for me,” one member who asked not to be named told The Drum. “Holding myself accountable by tracking my food and weekly weigh-ins and meetings work for me.”

Weight Watchers may not have seemed relevant to Tifford when she was first offered her current job, but you don’t need a new name to solve a relevancy problem. It’s like using a sledgehammer instead of a screwdriver to fix a loose screw. What to change instead: an updated mission, new messaging and complementary new products that speak to the company’s refreshed brand position and customers’ changing preferences.

"We knew with 'weight' in our name that it would really not encompass everything we are striving to be," Tifford told WSJ. "Our member base already refers to it as WW."

Stated the 30-year member, who is also a marketing industry veteran: “It’s hard not saying Weight Watchers since the brand is over 50 years old. WW is awkward as a company name, but I understand the transition to wellness and lifestyle. They maybe should have changed the messaging.”

TIfford points out that the WW community has been talking about wellness for a long time — "what they’ve gained in their life from being healthy," she told WSJ. "It’s not just about food and recipes."

Yet, besides the new name and tagline, and an activity tracker offering, virtually everything else features the same type of messaging and offers as before Weight Watchers was “reimagined” as WW.

“The ability to truly transform people's lives, we haven't even tapped that potential yet,” Tifford told The Drum in the September interview.

The best way for WW to meet its full potential? Be the best version of itself: a brand with 55 years of brand equity and millions of fans known for its mission to help members lose and maintain their weight so they can enjoy life to the fullest. Be Weight Watchers.

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