Why Weight Watchers Is Shedding the Baggage of an Old Name

Call the brand WW from now on

Accompanying the slimmed-down moniker is a new tagline: “Wellness that Works.” WW

Earlier this year, DJ Khaled turned heads by publicly joining Weight Watchers and dropping 26 pounds. But when he talked to the New York Post’s Page Six, he was adamant about the wording of his accomplishment. Don’t call it losing weight, he admonished: “I got rid of. I don’t lose,” said the performer and record exec. “All I do is win—you know what I mean.”

Turns out, Mr. Khaled isn’t the only one who’s grown more particular about the terminology surrounding weight loss. Today, Weight Watchers announced that it’s actually no longer Weight Watchers. From this point forward, the famous weight-loss program’s name will be simply WW.

Accompanying that slimmed-down moniker is a new tagline: “Wellness that Works.”

“We’re putting our decades of knowledge and expertise in behavioral science to work for an even greater mission,” said CEO Mindy Grossman. “We are becoming the world’s partner in wellness. No matter what your goal is—to lose weight, eat healthier, move more, develop a positive mind-set or all of the above—we will deliver science-based solutions that fit into people’s lives.”

Accompanying the name change is a new visual brand identity (logo, color palette, font and so on), together with a slew of matching initiatives that help facilitate the shift in thinking from simply losing weight to a more holistic approach of overall wellness.

For example, WW has partnered with meditation app Headspace, which will develop content customized for WW members. A new program called Connect Groups will assist members to “foster meaningful relationships that inspire healthy habits.” WW has also launched a new rewards program called WellnessWins, through which members can rack up “wins” for performing various healthy activities before redeeming them for “exclusive products, services and experiences.”

The change in nomenclature comes at a pivotal time for the company and its segment. Not only have newcomers like SoulCycle and Peloton brought a fresh approach to thinking about weight loss and healthy living, WW is now a 55-year-old brand. Jean Nidetch, a housewife from Queens, New York, started the company in 1963 after a friend mistook her 214-pound frame as sign that she was pregnant. In the ensuing years, WW went on to become a wildly successful weight-loss program, employing a point system to help members assess how much they were eating while stressing the value of activity and group encouragement to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

But more recently, postwar notions of dieting and dropping pounds—at all costs—have lost ground in favor of a more comprehensive physical and philosophical approach. In 2016, Weight Watchers magazine published a feature in which real-life members posed mostly or entirely nude, a highly visible effort that publicized a shift in the company’s philosophical approach by telling women that body acceptance was more important than weight loss alone.

For these and other reasons, said branding consultant and Metaforce founder Allen Adamson, this rebranding is well-timed. “It’s a smart move,” he said. “Weight Watchers has some baggage—one, it’s an older brand, and it’s your mother’s way to lose weight. Two, it focuses on the negative, which is why nobody wants to be seen carrying a Weight Watchers bag around town. The product has been good, but the branding was a throwback to the 1970s.”

At the same time, the shift in identity is not without its risks. When Kentucky Fried Chicken shortened its name to KFC in 1991, it lost valuable name recognition that had been carefully built up since 1952. A similar dynamic exists here. “They’re walking away from huge brand equity,” Adamson said. “But the WW branding gives them a chance for a fresh start and to try to be more contemporary.”

Just like DJ Khaled—who, judging from his latest Instagram pics, is still looking pretty svelte.


@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.