Wellness Branding is all rage right now. All the cool kids are doing it. It seems as if any business that is in any way related to Wellness is trying to get on board the Wellness Wagon. If you’re in the business of spa, beauty, medicine, exercise or any number of what I call ‘Wellness-adjacent’ businesses, chances are you’re making sure Wellness is part of your branding. And so it is now with Weight Watchers.
Trust (mark) Me!
Weight Watchers has now become WW. CEO Mindy Grossman has declared this is not specifically a change in brand name. Rather, it is shift towards the trustmark of WW. So, what is a Trust Mark? Well, traditionally, a trustmark has been like a stamp of approval. Some form of assurance of quality, integrity or trust in a brand. But here’s the thing though, trustmarks should really be given by an independent and unbiased third party. Not by your own brand. Industry Associations, for example, could offer their logo to trusted, vetted and approved businesses and brands. Once companies and brands start issuing their own trustmarks, as several already do, they instantly lose some of their integrity.
What’s interesting to me is that in WW’s Wellness branding efforts, they’ve decided to hang on to the Weight Watchers identity as the overarching brand. Ok, sure, it’s technically not Weight Watchers anymore, but let’s face it, by effectively making WW the new brand name, consumers will still identify with the Weight Watchers name. Indeed, Grossman herself said that part of the reasoning for the WW branding is that they wanted something ‘surprising yet familiar’, especially to their existing customers.
An Alphabet Umbrella
Few years ago, Google went through their own re-branding exercise. They could have very easily taken a similar approach and created their own trustmark. But in a way, by virtue of their long-standing success in their space, they almost don’t need a trustmark. Google itself is h trusted, and that’s enough. So instead, Google decided to create an umbrella brand above it. Alphabet essentially became the parent company of Google – 17 years after its birth.
What I like about this approach is that it allows the Google brand to remain 100% intact. There is zero dilution of the Google brand identity. At the same time, they create an umbrella brand under which the company is able to continue entering other, completely unrelated markets and industries. So, Google is free to be what everyone already knows Google is – a search engine. Alphabet is the vehicle to do other things.
Another really interesting conversation around this whole idea of Wellness Branding is…why? Why is it necessary at all? Is it simply to ride the wave of consumer awareness and sentiment? I think that’s part of it. But I think another big part of the reasoning is that Wellness has a much broader scope. WW wants to be about more than just losing weight. It wants to be, according to their corporate Linkedin Page, “a global wellness technology company inspiring millions of people to adopt healthy habits for real life.” That’s a much bigger business than just watching weight.
It’s certainly a noble mission. But purely from a branding standpoint, things start to get a bit messy when you start to expand your scope. Most branding experts would agree that the more specific you can be in your brand identity, vision and mission, the stronger it will be.
Weight Watchers was very specific. It said what it does on the tin, as they say. You watch your weight and in doing so you become healthier. WW, it seems, is trying to be everything to everyone.
Own Your Niche
Let’s face, for most people, a significant part of getting healthy and being well is losing weight. You only need to look at the obesity rates around the world to understand this reality. And Weight Watchers owned that niche. Some have said Weight Watchers have struggled to stay relevant in recent years because of an over-reliance on people’s negative body image, fat shaming, etc. In an age of self-empowerment and enlightenment, making people conscious of their weight is a bad thing.
It’s hard to be the healthiest and well-est version of yourself if you are carrying around too much extra fat. That’s the truth. Should you be body-shamed for it? No. Is there much more to being well than just your body weight? Of course. But don’t kid yourself that weight is not a factor. It is.
What Would Trent Do?
If I was at the helm and charged with the responsibility of creating a Wellness branding direction for Weight Watchers, here’s what I would do.
Keep the Weight Watchers brand. Embrace it for what it is. A leader in the weight loss/control segment. A critical part of Wellness for most.
Create a new umbrella brand, much like Google did with Alphabet.
Pursue the multiple business and brand opportunities in Wellness via that new umbrella brand.
Over time, as the various new ventures evolve, continually re-assess the collection of brands and businesses under the umbrella. Stay alert to the possible cannibalization of one business by another. Look for synergies between brands.
Having said all that, given the track record of CEO Mindy Grossman, it would be naïve to think she doesn’t have a very clear, well thought out game plan. After a successful career with big names like Ralph Lauren and Nike and most recently as CEO of HSN (Home Shopping Network), Grossman is nobody’s fool. She has also committed to sharing the journey with the public as the company embarks on his new direction. In a recent interview Grossman spoke of the transparency with which they will undertake the journey. That in itself should be very interesting to watch.