Weight Watchers has changed a lot over the 50 years it’s been in business, but remains the top brand in paying someone to help you lose weight. Right now, the company is having some trouble. They recently ditched their CEO, and like many industries are struggling to stay relevant in a world where customers can get the same or better service online cheaper or for free.
The Washington Post recently looked at the company’s current troubles and prospects. Weight Watchers weathered the a ’90s rejection of dieting in general, the Atkins craze of the following decade, and the 2008 economic meltdown and recession.
Now, though, it’s the smartphone that is hurting Weight Watchers. Yes, they do have their own app for members’ use, but that’s the key: for their members. The people who pay fees to belong to Weight Watchers, use their program, and attend meetings. By purchasing a device like a FitBit or downloading a free app like LoseIt! or MyFitnessPal, people interested in counting steps and calories can either pay a small amount once and be done, or download a free app and find tracking tools and an entire community to back them up. It’s not the same as having a meeting full of real live people to attend, but it’s a lot cheaper.
Another factor? Diet fads. Current hot trends like ketogenic diets or primal eating spread quickly online from person to person. There’s a world of support and recipes online, so who needs cards?
Weight Watchers has tried to find new markets. One untapped market that the company has tried to pursue has been men, signing former basketball star and current sportscaster Charles Barkley as a spokesman. He was most notable for saying during a broadcast that he thought the entire concept of getting paid to lose weight was a scam, and also for saying that his weight loss caused him to gain 2 inches in penis size. Both of which probably appeal to male prospective customers.
If your office has started a Weight Watchers group in recent years, don’t be surprised: one market they’re branching out into is workplace wellness, where employers subsidize the plan in the hope of slimming down their employees and their health insurance premiums.
Wondering how much Weight Watchers has changed in the last half-century? You should peek at The Retro Weight Watchers Experiment, a blog where a leader for the company tortures herself in unspeakable ways by eating actual Weight Watchers recipes from 1972, like Friendly Aspic or Fluffy Mackerel Pudding.
Internet killed the dieting star: Why Weight Watchers is floundering [Washington Post] (Thanks, Dan!)