Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weight Watchers marketing mistake - the momentum plan

Weight Watchers: The Momentum Plan

What a dumb name.

Weight Watchers has a program called “The Momentum Plan”.

Why is that a dumb name?
Because as any high school physics student knows, momentum is equal to mass times velocity. That means you can increase momentum by increasing your mass (weight) or velocity (speed) or both.

In layman’s thinking momentum is usually associated with continuously moving forward. Ships come to mind. A super tanker has much more momentum than a tug boat even if they are both moving at the same speed – because the super tanker has more bulk. More bulk (even if that bulk is dead weight) means more momentum. For that reason the super tanker takes more time and distance to steer. Inflexible companies are often compared to the super tanker. Momentum is not necessarily desirable.

Picture Fat Albert, of The Bill Cosby Kids Cartoon show, striding slowly down the street. Now imagine Jughead, of Archie Comics, walking beside him at the same speed. If Fat Albert weighs in at 300 lbs and Jughead tips the scales at 100 lbs – Fat Albert has three times the momentum of Jughead.

Fat Albert has more momentum because he weights more than Jughead. Now imagine them both sitting in a chair. Velocity is zero. Fat Albert has more momentum than Jughead because it is more difficult to push him out of the chair than it is to move Fat Albert. Is that the picture that Weight Watchers is trying to paint?

One of the rules of modern marketing is to put the benefits in the headline. For example, SlimFast is a better headline that Weight Watchers. People want to be slim. They don’t want to watch their weight.

You might ask, “Why has Weight Watchers been so successful as a business?” Because they were one of, if not the first in the “weight loss” business. And when you are the first in your market you tend to be the market leader until you mess up a lot. The first in any field enjoys a head start on the competition. But that might not be enough.

Make enough mistakes and you get bypassed by smarter runners. Look at how Toyota bypassed General Motors and Hyundai is sprinting through the pack. General Motors still has more momentum because it has more bulk – more assets, more employees and more debt than the leaner car companies. And when GM crashes the momentum it has will leave a huge crater of destruction. Is that the image that Weight Watchers is trying to create in the minds of its prospects?

What is Weight Watchers suggesting with their “The Momentum Plan”? Are they saying that you will have more momentum with this plan? You just keep moving at the same pace and keep adding mass so that you have more momentum just like Fat Albert (Hey, hey hey!).

Do the customers of Weight Watchers really want more momentum?

George Torok
Marketing Speaker
Marketing Expert


No comments: