The Weight Watchers Case
Weight Watchers had been the most dominant player in the dieting market for decades up until 2015 when the company’s subscription revenue shrank from $6 billion to $1 billion over a four year period. In response to this, the company sought to figure out why people were now reluctant to join their program. As a result, the company identified an ongoing cultural phenomenon,” dieting fatigue”. People no longer wanted to hear about “dieting” or “weight loss” but were instead interested in becoming healthy and fit. Clean eating and concepts such as “strong is the new skinny” heavily fueled this new mindset.
In response to this shift, Weight Watchers decided to alter it’s messaging and create new slogans like “time to move beyond the scale”. The company also successfully revamped its marketing strategy and invested in new technologies. Today Weight Watchers has gained new momentum and it’s stock market value continues to climb. This is in large part due to the company’s open-minded and dynamic approach to solving this cultural challenge.
Here are three business lessons that fitness club owners can take away from this story:
1. Recognize Cultural Shifts:
Don’t assume! Ask them and listen!
The Weight Watchers case illustrates that being in touch with your client base is essential. But what does this mean for fitness and health clubs? It is essential for you to be in touch with your client base and be aware of how your clients feel about their memberships. This is why it is crucial to check in with your members regularly. Don’t simply assume what they want, ask, listen, and then adapt. This will not only boost member retention, but also signal to your clients that you value their opinion.
2. Adapt your messaging:
Dieting fatigue can also become a liability for your business
Many businesses are plagued by the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality toward new business ideas and strategies. This is especially the case when it comes to marketing, where it is essential to stay up to date and recognize new trends and cultural shifts (see point one).
As we’ve learned from the Weight Watchers case, dieting fatigue, for instance, can become a real liability. As a response to this challenge, the company altered its messaging to be more inclusive and less guilt-driven such as their “move beyond the scale” campaign.
Fitness and health clubs are also impacted by this social phenomenon of dieting fatigue. Yet they often still rely on old tropes in their ad campaigns and continue to promote the standard new year’s resolution slogans like, “finally losing those ten pounds that have been bugging you for years”. If there is anything we can learn from the Weight Watchers case, we need to acknowledge that people no longer want to be told that they have to lose weight. That’s why more innocuous slogans like “strong is the new skinny” are gaining in popularity.
Instead of guilting new clients into signing a contract after the holidays, fitness clubs should seize the opportunity to connect with their clients. For instance, they could replace the old “finally lose those ten pounds with us” ad with new more productive messaging that resonates with their target group.
3. Invest in new technologies
Another lesson fitness owners can learn from the Weight Watchers case, is that investing in new technologies pays off. After their sales figures had plummeted, Weight Watchers decided not only to rethink its messaging but also to finally keep up with its fierce competitors and create an online platform and a new app. Especially because Weight Watchers joined in on the “quantified self” movement, they were able to convince customers that their company also belonged in the twenty-first-century.
As the world moves toward a fully digital economy, fitness club owners can benefit from new technologies as well and thereby increase their revenue. As we’ve already pointed out in a previous article about boutique fitness, experts predict for example that data-driven workouts are the future. So why not invest in solutions that will quantifiably improve the workout quality of your members, improve their experience and therefore among other things increase member retention?
Business lessons for fitness club owners
So here’s what we’ve learned: First, it is essential to be in touch with your client base and to always be on top of cultural shifts that also affect the attitudes of your club members. Second, always be ready to adapt your messaging and don’t rely on old tropes. Be Creative. Third, invest in the future of your business and keep up with technological and digital innovation.
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Tobias Baader | COO