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Weight Watchers Issue Diagnosis


Business Challenge


2 weeks into January 2015, Weight Watchers was experiencing a 70% drop in sign-ups compared to the same time the previous year. Given the nature of the category and the importance of January sign-ups given the inherent seasonal sales cycle, Weight Watchers needed to act quickly. Current advertising did not seem to be effective, promotional offers were falling flat, and changes to the program were not resonate or motivating. Hypotheses circulated the HQ building, but nobody really knew what was driving such a significant drop, and what to do about it. An emergency Executive Leadership Team (ELT) meeting was called for early February. 



In advance of this Leadership meeting, Weight Watchers called upon Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) to help diagnose the problem, deliver insights into the issue, and provide recommendations for moving forward. Within 2 weeks, BSG:


  • Conducted a quantitative issue assessment poll among women who needed to lose weight and recently took some action (joined WW, joined a competitor program, downloaded an app, and/or purchased an activity tracking device)

  • Performed a research audit of existing research, including qualitative focus groups, to help piece together the whole story

  • Evaluated the impact of Weight Watcher’s Super Bowl advertising spot through a pre-post Super Bowl methodology

  • Performed Barrier Analysis to sub-segment consumers based on their reasons for not joining Weight Watchers

  • Attended the two-day ELT meeting, where we presented our findings and recommendations, and participated in a discussion about changes to marketing plan and evolution of the WW product



Coming out of the ELT:

  • Weight Watchers changed out their advertising for the rest of their buy, replacing it with an existing ad delivering a more meaningful message

  • Changes were made to pricing and structure of the “coaching” element of their program

  • New direction was provided to digital agency, developing a digital campaign

  • Groundwork was laid for the development of a new program for Weight Watchers to offer in 2016

  • Weight Watchers started to see a gain in sign-ups and drop in Lapsed Users; YoY sign-ups for the first quarter 2015 ended up much closer to 2014 than projected at the beginning of 2015

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