Weight Watchers changes its name and pivots to wellness

By Published on .

Credit: Weight Watchers/WW

Weight Watchers is taking its biggest step yet to alter people's perceptions about the brand: It's changing its name.

The company announced Monday that it's now called WW—which it says pays homage to the brand's heritage (it was founded 55 years ago by Jean Nidetch as a weight-loss company) but shifts the focus from dieting to wellness. Its new tagline: "Wellness that Works."

People no longer need a weight loss goal to join up, for one. And starting Oct. 4, the company's app will be updated: A new program, WellnessWins (there's that double W again), will reward WW members for things like tracking their meals and attending wellness workshops; the FitPoints algorithm will be more personalized and encourage high-intensity and strength-training exercises; and new groups are being added for people with common interests (think: vegetarians, new moms, yoga fans). WW is also partnering with meditation app company Headspace on customized content that comes out later this fall (first in English only, and later German and French).

"These are ways that our brand can show up as healthy living, so much more beyond just diet," President and CEO Mindy Grossman, who has been overseeing the company's overhaul since she joined in mid-2017, tells Ad Age.

The company also said that by January all WW foods will be free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners. And a beta version of voice integration with Amazon Alexa and the Google assistant lets members ask about the points values of their food and more.

WW also wants to be seen in unexpected places. A WW Freestyle Cafe opens at the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn on Oct. 4 and plans to be there for at least a year; it features "healthy Mediterranean" entrees, sides and desserts by chef Cat Cora. There will also be a WW Freestyle choice in each of the other food venues there, along with brand activations.

A WW Freestyle promotion took place at the Giants home opener via a food truck outside MetLife Stadium on Sept. 9, featuring dishes such as lobster rolls and mac and cheese served by Eric Greenspan, as well as an in-venue activation.

As part of the overhaul, says Grossman, the company had interviewed thousands of people about how the brand impacted their lives. Not one person started their answer with how much weight they'd lost, she says; instead, each first spoke about how their lives were better or had been changed.

Credit: Weight Watchers

Even before the name change, the company was making a subtle shift beyond a weight-loss focus, promoting programs with names such as "Beyond the Scale," and had raised its profit forecast for the year.

WW ended the second quarter with 4.5 million subscribers, up 1 million from a year earlier, the company said in August. At that time, its chief financial officer said that average retention was exceeding nine months globally, which was an increase of more than 15 percent versus three years ago. "I would like to be able to start talking about retention in years, not months," says Grossman.

WW worked with SYPartners on its transformation plans. New ads from Anomaly are expected to start running in December. No word yet on whether board member and investor Oprah Winfrey will appear in that new campaign.

Most Popular