Marketing Case Study: How Weight Watchers Dominated the Weight Loss Industry

by on May 13, 2013 · 5 comments

Marketing Case Studies

Do you have an online business? Are you looking to build a successful one? You have a lot to learn from, a company that has perfectly marketed itself in the gigantic global weight management industry.

When it comes to clever marketing that steps in at the right time and takes advantage of a huge demand that will only increase in the foreseeable future, Weight Watchers is a model company that every motivated entrepreneur should look at.

Of all the companies that compete for their share of the $60 billion obesity industry, it is the company that gives the customers what they want that will always come out on top. Weight Watchers is that sort of company.

It listened to and observed its customers and has continually catered to the requests and demands of its clients. Because of this, Weight Watchers is an online tour de force, with 1.6 million active online subscribers in 2011, up from just over 1 million in 2010.

Clearly, weight Watchers is doing something right to captivate so many new clients. But what? Why has Weight Watchers become such a Pied Piper of weight loss systems?

Marketing is a funny business with many different philosophies. Marketing experts always think they know what we, the consumers, are thinking and based on their assumptions they try to sell us products. It is rare that they truly get it right. But there are a few ‘secrets’ of the marketing world that Weight Watchers has adhered to and they are certainly paying off. Here are just a few.

Link Your Product to a Good Cause

Cause Marketing is an effective marketing strategy that results in a win-win situation for both a business and a non-profit organization, as the former generates money to support the good cause of the latter.

Weight Watchers launched “Lose for Good” in 2010, a good example of a cause marketing campaign. This program helps feed hungry children and families in need. The more pounds Weight Watchers’ participants lose, the more money and food the company donates.

In 2013, the donation goal is $1 million. “Let’s lose for somebody else’s gain” is the campaign’s motto in an era where world hunger is at an all time high. Through this program, Weight Watchers has already fed 6,000 children in South Sudan, and has donated in US local food drives 2 million pounds of food, collected by its members who responded to the company’s call: Help Weight Watchers fight hunger.

Is you product linked to a good cause? Cause marketing not only supports your favorite charity, it also increases your product’s reputation. Customers are very receptive to cause marketing because it allows them to donate without increasing their monthly spending—they buy products they would buy anyway.

Join for Free and Let the Product Sell Itself

There are different ways to execute this type of strategy. One way is to offer the customer a free trial and if they forget to cancel their subscription, they are automatically opted in to the product. Often it is difficult to remember to cancel these types of subscription, which can lead to irate customers and complaints against companies that attempt to gain market share in this way.

Instead, Weight Watchers uses what is called the ‘Free Trial Marketing’ method where it allows potential customers to experience a Weight Watchers meeting at any time and does not require the visitor to give any monetary information.

During the meeting, the potential customer meets people who are successful, is exposed to all of the company’s material and food products and are offered the opportunity to join. This type of marketing strategy, says marketing analyst Tony Rossel, can get a company conversion rates pushing 30%.

Take Advantage of your Competitors’ Weaknesses

Weight Watchers noticed that clients of Nutrisystem, the number two commercial weight loss program, did not enjoy the prepackaged, “TV dinner” type of foods or the very strict meal plans and schedules the competitor offers. I know that food packaged and dehydrated isn’t the best motivator for me when I am trying to lose weight.

Weight Watchers capitalized on that general feeling and started promoting its product as “real food in the real world”. They also pushed the fact that their program has flexibility, allowing the customer to choose their own path. Not only does this make potential clients think that they are eating much better on Weight Watchers, but it also gives them an important sense of empowerment which further endears them to the program.

Serve Your Product in a New and Improved Form

Are you constantly making your product better? The improvement of a product is key to business success. The cornerstone of Weight Watchers program is the Points system — a sophisticated method for tracking the caloric content of food.

Throughout the years, this program has improved, re-packaged, and been given different names. The Points system, introduced in 1997, was re-launched as Momentum program in 2008, PointsPlus in 2010, and Weight Watchers 360 in December 2012. All these are improved versions of a basic product which has been studied, researched, and re-formulated for more than 40 years.

Along with the improvement in the main product, every year the company offers new online and offline tools (food and exercise trackers, progress charts, recipes, workouts), supportive secondary products (scales, food, activity monitor devices), and appealing opportunities for savings.

If your business has been offering a particular product for some time, think how you can improve it to better serve your customers. Has the technology related to your product changed? Have your customers developed different preferences since the first time you launched your product? You need to adjust.

Sell the feelings, Not the Product

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to listen to a bunch of doctors and experts tell me about my cholesterol levels and diabetes risk over and over when I am in a weight loss program. What motivates me most of all is the promise that I will FEEL better, in mind and body.

Customers are not motivated by lectures or finger-shaking. They want the company to tell them that their product will give them success. Famous singer and Weight Watchers spokesperson Jessica Simpson stated after losing weight on Weight Watchers “….”I feel good.”… “I feel like I’m on top of the world!”…“I have been losing weight with Weight Watchers and I feel great.”

Weight Watchers Marketing Case Study

It’s all about the feelings, the wants, not necessarily the needs. Weight Watchers brings to its customers what they want, which is to enjoy food and eat what they like. It doesn’t focus on what they need, which is to get on a diet, eat that broccoli and lose weight.

Weight Watchers’ plan ultimately teaches people to eat healthy and keep the weight off, but the focus of the marketing message is “eat what you love and feel good” and “Weight Watchers works because it’s not a diet”.

What feeling is your business associated with? Make sure your marketing creates in your customers’ mind a neuro-association between your product and that feeling.

Make Your Solution Look Unprecedented

With its new Weight Watchers 360 program, Weight Watchers uses a brilliant marketing strategy by touting its system as a complicated calculation based on a food’s ability to be metabolized in various ways.

The ads will have you believe that this is a breakthrough scientific discovery made exclusively by Weight Watchers. It uses the old glycemic index of various foods along with how foods are broken down by the body, assigning points based on how food affects the body’s blood sugar and overall energy. It sounds very heady and science-based doesn’t it?

But it is no more complicated than other programs. The beauty of Weight Watchers is that it makes a point to tell customers and potential customers that they are special because of these ‘advances’ and that these ‘advances’ in food science will aid them in their weight loss goals more than any of the other programs that exist.

Brilliant. Doesn’t all of this give you confidence in the product? Weight Watchers tells you exactly what you want to hear. They have applied fundamental, effective and cutting-edge marketing strategies. They are willing to listen to what works for people and respond, and act on that for your benefit. There is a lot we can learn from that.

Matthew is an online entrepreneur who studies how various companies apply their marketing strategies to sell their weight loss programs in the diet industry. His blog is affiliated with and presents reviews of some of the most successful companies including Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and Medifast. Like Don, Matthew is living his dream of working from home, spending quality time with his family, and often earning money without working.

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Matthew is an online entrepreneur who studies how various companies apply their marketing strategies to sell their weight loss programs in the diet industry. His blog is affiliated with and presents reviews of some of the most successful companies including Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and Medifast. Like Don, Matthew is living his dream of working from home, spending quality time with his family, and often earning money without working.

Matthew has written 1 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmen Rane Hudson May 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

These are all some really great points, especially the part about serving up the product in new and improved form. I never, ever would have roused myself to get out of the house to go to a Weight Watcher’s meeting–I’m simply too introverted. But I have used and liked the online tools and have found them very easy to use (other than the general hassle of recording what I eat at all). Maybe their next iteration will involve taking pictures of food with a cell phone and getting a points estimate from that! That would rock.


Matthew Denos May 20, 2013 at 12:55 am

Haha, yes Carmen. Logging your calories can be a headache, indeed. I have tried the Weight Watchers online, too, and it is very convenient for people who are not font of meetings. Improving the product and serving it in a new way makes a difference in the marketing world as people are attracted to the new. Thank you for your nice comment.


John Mak August 13, 2013 at 3:13 am

Hi Matthew,

this is an interesting analysis of why Weight Watchers has penetrated the market so successfully. I run a blog where I review software and I present business solutions of merchants I’m affiliated with. I have noticed that the merchants I am affiliated with are, to some degree, following Weight Watchers’ marketing strategies, too. For example, Go-To-My-PC is offering a Free Trial. They, too, use “feelings” to sell rather than the features of the product itself.


Matthew August 17, 2013 at 2:57 am

Hello John,

nice to see you here. Indeed, our emotions is what drives us. Weight Watchers (and other merchants) know this really good!



O?uz Ka?an Aslan January 28, 2014 at 1:58 am

In the 3rd sentence –> has to be

Thanks for the case study, very informative.


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