FED UP WITH PROMOTING DIETS, WEIGHT-LOSS RIVALS BRANCH OUT: MARKETERS FIND WELLNESS, FITNESS TANTALIZING, TOO

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For today's weight-loss industry, "diet" is a four-letter word.

Instead, marketers are pushing fitness, wellness and self-control in bold new initiatives increasingly aimed beyond the estimated 97 million who are overweight and toward their thinner counterparts.

Jenny Craig is redefining itself as a self-improvement marketer, beginning with a line of nutritional supplements sold via the Internet and the test of a Jenny Craig-branded exercise equipment line.

Even purist Weight Watchers, while testing a new personalized weight-loss-by-phone service, is reaching out toward a more diverse target with a line of branded shapewear, marketed under license by Warnaco starting this fall.

WEIGHT LOSS FOR THE MILLENNIUM

Weight loss "is really a life-changing enhancement, an opportunity to take control in a '90s, new millennium sort of way," said Les Koll, senior VP-marketing at Jenny Craig, which will bring out a much broader line of wellness products later this year.

The trend also is a reaction to the roller-coaster ride the category has endured.

"This has been a very troubled industry, under siege by consumers and the Federal Trade Commission," said John LaRosa, president of Marketdata, which tracks the industry.

Along with the stampede to now-outlawed diet drugs such as Fen-Phen, this has prompted Weight Watchers to put its classroom business up for sale, Mr. LaRosa said, noting: "It's tough to make a profit, so it's best to sell on the uptrend."

SALES TO RISE 13%

While it hasn't tallied final figures from last year, Marketdata expected commercial weight-loss programs such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers to rise about 13% in dollar sales in 1998; 7.6 million consumers were expected to use the programs.

Jenny Craig acknowledged enrollments recently have been flat; Weight Watchers said they are up significantly. Neither would provide figures.

Weight Watchers is reaching out to non-members with its shapewear, called Weight Watchers in Control. The line will be distributed via mass merchandisers.

Carmen Dubroc, exec VP-marketing at Weight Watchers, said In Control is a natural outgrowth of its business.

She also said the marketer will test a new program in Baltimore, Chicago and Hartford, Conn., called Personal Connection. The one-on-one phone-serivce with a dietician focuses solely on weight loss, Ms. Dubroc noted.

Also presenting an opportunity to expand beyond dieters-Kellogg Co. is trying a similar personalized dietitian service via phone for cholesterol reduction-Weight Watchers' plan is to stick to its core.

'WE'RE NOT HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS'

"We're not going after the general population that has specific diseases to control," Ms. Dubroc said. "We're not healthcare providers."

Newspaper ads from Strategies, Westbury, N.Y., will support the program locally; Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, buys media.

For its main service, Weight Watchers is breaking a new spring campaign, featuring spokeswoman Sarah Ferguson, in April and May women's magazines. Those ads are from Seiden Group, New York.

Jenny Craig isn't using mass-market ads to push its nutritional supplement line as yet.

Mr. Koll said the vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, called Advanced Nutrients, were created by NBC "Today" show regular Dr. Art Ulene. Dr. Ulene markets his own retail line under the Feeling Fine moniker, but Mr. Koll said this isn't a conflict since the Jenny Craig brand will be sold only though e-commerce.

ONLINE ADS SUPPORT

Banners on Web sites will support, created in-house with placement via Western Initiative Media, West Hollywood, Calif. Suissa Miller, Los Angeles, is Jenny Craig's creative agency.

The exercise equipment isn't being advertised, but the line joins a growing wave of products aimed at making weight/health management easier for Jenny Craig

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