Competing for Market Share in the Crowded Weight Loss Sector

Jessica Simpson
According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese, and an even greater share is considered overweight. Given these unhealthy demographic trends, the already-robust market for weight loss products and services should continue to see overall growth.

Competing for market share, however, is proving to be more challenging, even for the established players like Weight Watchers, Nutri System and Jenny Craig. Innovations by smaller players in the category, such as digital wristband calorie meters, mobile dieting applications, and Wi-Fi-powered scales are allowing consumers to take increasing control of their weight loss regimens, and are taking market share from the established players as a result.

Direct Response marketers selling weight loss supplements and Neutraceutical products, such as Sensa, have also been beneficiaries’ of these trends in recent years, but are now faced with a more stringent regulatory environment.

Both Nutri System and Weight Watchers have both recently reported lower than expected earnings. In this challenging marketplace, it is more important than ever for brands to connect with the consumer. All three category heavyweights have often utilized celebrity spokespeople to fill the dual role of positioning their brands while bolstering response for weight loss program memberships.

Needless to say, choosing the right celebrity to deliver the right message can make the difference between a company’s growth or decline in market share.

Jessica Simpson vs. Marie Osmond

As a result, two of the category leaders have recently inked recent deals with high-profile female celebrities. Weight Watchers placed a hefty bet on Jessica Simpson being that spokesperson. With a contract worth approximately $4.0M, the company is banking on Jessica’s popularity, and hopefully, influence, among female consumers to significantly boost registrations for its weight loss program.

Simpson’s mixed performance in the DR STAR INDEX® makes this an uncertain bet. Clearly, she is popular on some levels; her Recognition score falls in the top 10% of all celebrities surveyed, while her Attractiveness and Relevance rankings were in the top 5%. However, she fared poorly for two key DR spokesperson attributes: Trust and Influence. In both of these categories, Simpson landed in the bottom 20% of all celebrities; in fact, more than one in four respondents considered her “untrustworthy”.

Marie Osmond, the current spokesperson for Nutri System, appears to be a safer, more conservative choice for a brand. Though she scored lower than Jessica for Relevance, Recognition and Attactiveness, Marie’s rankings in all three categories were still solid, as she ranked in the top 20% throughout. Where Osmond shines relative to Simpson, however, are in the critical Trust and Influence categories, where her scores easily eclipsed her weight loss rival. She is also a much less polarizing figure than Simpson; at worst, people are neutral about her, whereas they seem to have stronger negative feelings about Simpson.

For their current campaign, Weight Watchers chose to renew its relationship with Simpson and feature her over Jennifer Hudson, who filled that role in 2013. Time will tell if this was a wise decision; Hudson not only scored well in the same categories as Simpson, but also in the Trust and Influence categories, where Simpson was weak.

We will be closely monitoring these campaigns to see their effect on the bottom lines of both companies. It will be telling to see whether a spokesperson such as Simpson, who is extremely popular, can outperform the somewhat less-popular Osmond, who is perceived by the public as more trustworthy and influential.

By Robert Yallen and Rob Levy | SOURCE