But is Oprah a unique case due to her super-stardom?
Here’s some insight into why she (and big celebrity endorsements) could still be the key to success for Weight Watchers and other brands like it.
Weight Watchers has had a tumultuous time over the past couple of years, with shares rising and falling sharply. In 2015, Oprah bought a 10% stake in the company, which sent investment rocketing. A year later, CEO James Chambers left, leading to renewed doubt over the brand’s declining membership.
One of the brand’s biggest challenges has undoubtedly been competition from emerging areas within the health and fitness industry, such as apps and wearables with tracking technology.
It’s been estimated that 36.7m FitBit trackers have been sold since 2014 – an impressive figure when you compare it to Weight Watchers’ 1.4m active online subscribers.
Of course, for Weight Watchers – a brand that is rooted in the emotion-driven diet industry rather than rationally-focused fitness sector – this kind of comparison is a fruitless exercise. That being said, reversing dwindling membership is undoubtedly a big aim, and this brings us to its renewed marketing efforts with Oprah front-and-centre in a series of new ads.
The personal factor
Part of the ‘Live Fully’ campaign, Weight Watchers rolled out two new ads in time for autumn and winter 2016, both featuring Oprah “revealing her own story”.
In both, she is seen announcing the fact that she has lost 40 pounds on the plan, putting it down to a focus on ‘living well’ and not feeling deprived in the process.
The campaign depicts losing weight in a healthy and positive way by highlighting the amount Weight Watchers members are allowed to eat rather than what is off-limits. And with the brand promoting such a positive and life-affirming attitude, there’s certainly an empowering feel to the ads.
Though this style of marketing is well-worn ground for Weight Watchers, Oprah’s influence injects a fresh boost of authority, and in turn gives the campaign greater value. Unlike a celebrity that’s merely been paid to promote a product, Oprah’s involvement is rooted in both personal and professional reasons.
Of course, cynics might say that her shares in the company are motivation enough to front a campaign, but with Oprah’s well-documented association with Weight Watchers in years previously, it would suggest her association is authentic.
Building consumer trust
For brands using high-profile personalities in marketing, this authenticity is key when it comes to instilling consumer confidence.
While research suggests that a celebrity endorsement can lead to a 4% increase in immediate sales, it is vital that it is seen as a genuine and natural reflection of their personality and values.
Oprah, who is well-known for championing female empowerment, philanthropy and entrepreneurialism, therefore aligns with, not only the values of Weight Watchers, but also its core consumer.
Likewise, with social media also allowing us greater insight into the daily lives of celebrities, it’s becoming easier to see through those who are disingenuous.
In the third quarter of last year, Weight Watchers reported that subscribers were up 10.1% compared with the same period in the year previous.
Similarly, revenue was up 3% year-on-year to $281m. Overall, it looks as though Oprah’s ad campaign contributed to these positive results.
With a revamp that cleverly aligns with the TV star’s female fanbase, Weight Watchers has proven that celebrity endorsement still offer value – as long as it is done with transparency and real authenticity.
To learn more about this topic, check out Econsultancy’s Future of Celebrity Marketing report.