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Why Weight Watchers' name change is a step in the right direction

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Slimming company Weight Watchers has rebranded as WW with a renewed focus on wellness and health, rather than weight loss.

While the change represents an evolution of thinking at the company, the fact that the heritage letters have been retained has been criticised. John Taylor, creative director at brand agency Better, offers his take on National #FitnessDay...

Does rebranding your business mean renaming it? It depends on the circumstances. Context is everything but renaming is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly. Like any element in a brand refresh, it’s usually triggered by change.

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This change can be as simple as a single brand manager eager to put their stamp on things, or as complex as societal changes that colours the perception of particular words and values. The most important thing with any brand is to convey the thing that makes it different and relevant to its audience.

No brand is static and to stay relevant it has to stay on top of current trends (both micro and macro) and ahead of popular opinion. Putting to one side the slightly nebulous rename of Weight Watchers, the rationale behind it seems fairly clear.

Watching weight is no longer differentiated and the word ‘weight’ is problematic. Modern society seeks to celebrate and embrace diversity and it frowns on fat shaming, as evidenced by this month’s controversial COSMO cover featuring Tess Holliday. Campaigns like This Girl Can and Dove’s Real Beauty are just the tail end of a wider trend that looks at health more holistically and more realistically.

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Health has been reframed as 'fit not thin’ and at the same time it has broadened to encompass far more than just the physical. People have been talking about mindfulness and mental health for over a decade now, modern health is much more all-encompassing than just a number on the scales.

When companies start to look at health through this modern ‘holistic’ lens and see it less as ‘weight' and more as ‘wellbeing’, the opportunities for brand expansion increase dramatically. It is no longer just about counting calories and weighing in once a week, wellbeing now spans across every waking moment and you go from being a ’slimming’ brand to a ‘lifestyle’ brand.

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Weight Watchers has caught onto this and understood that it is no longer simply facing competition from other calorie counting programmes. It now must contend with a tidal wave of tech companies like Fitbit, Apple Watch, MyFitnessPal, Noom and countless others as well as aspirational lifestyle brands like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. It wants a slice of that cake - or at least a scoop of that roasted eggplant salad.

When you look at all the business opportunities involved in wellbeing it’s no wonder Weight Watchers is trying to shed baggage that potentially limits growth and relevance. The real problem is their reluctance to move on further.

Keeping the WW marque is a bit like hanging onto those XXXL jogging bottoms that no longer fit. It leaves the brand with a bizarre script where it has to say things like: “WW doesn’t stand for anything, it’s just a reminder of where we came from.” Will the website become ww.com? Everything the brand is doing makes sense, but it feels like it hasn’t gone the full course just yet.

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