Weight Watchers has been bucking the tide in the weight-loss business during the year since introducing a huge wrinkle in its long-used diet-evaluation system, called Points Plus. And now, the company wants to apply its new success formula to male dieters.
Even though January is the seasonal high tide for Weight Watchers, Jenny (Craig), Nutrisystem and other dieting brands, overall the weight-loss business has been getting leaner these days. Recessionary times and consumers taking a dollar-saving, individualized approach to weight loss have been largely to blame for a lagging industry performance that gained only 2 percent last year compared with a traditional 6-percent year-on-year improvement.
That's one big reason Nutrisystem has increased its focus on men.
The brand has always advertised to football-watching males with spokesmen including former NFL quarterback Dan Marino. But this year, Nutrisystem has busted out a new campaign called Men's Success, which it describes as the "most comprehensive weight-loss program to date and its most substantial reformulation in years." What's more, Nutrisystem has hired another former NFL quarterback, one a bit better known than Marino — Terry Bradshaw — as its main celebrity endorser this season to woo men, while extending its appeal to women with the recent addition of Janet Jackson as a brand ambassador.
While maintaining Jennifer Hudson as a brand ambassador, Weight Watchers has countered with a new male-oriented advertising campaign, starring former NBA star and media-loving bon vivant Charles Barkley, which in TV ads such as the one at top challenges viewers to "lose weight like a man." The ads keep running despite a critically panned performance by Barkley hosting Saturday Night Live this month and an open-mic error by Barkley during a TV broadcast earlier this month during which he described his Weight Watchers gig as "a great scam" —which he later explained, in an adroit bit of back-pedaling, as a really effective diet plan.
Also, Weight Watchers has gained the imprimatur in the U.K., of the Daily Mail newspaper, which launched a readers' weight-loss challenge campaign with the brand. Weight Watchers says its customers have been finding great success with the Points Plus program, unveiled a year ago, which differentiates between calories yielded by, say, a cookie versus those provided by a steak. The latter now are "higher-quality" calories that are less penalized in Points Plus.
Along with its new partnerships with American Express and other employers who now subsidize the cost of attending Weight Watchers meetings for their employees, these changes have added up to a boon in Weight Watchers' stock price as well as its its revenues. And the company continues to look for other opportunities for growth, including China.
So how will competitors catch up? Some by turning to man's best friend, not men per se: Nestle has joined two of its brands, Jenny Craig and Purina, to launch a new web-based promo aimed at the overweight crisis among dogs as well as their owners.