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Weight Watchers opts for slimmer WW brand

Washington

WEIGHT Watchers is dropping its brand name in exchange for something slimmer: "WW". The company says the new logo - coupled with the tagline "Wellness that Works" - puts an emphasis on overall health and well being, with less of a concerted focus on counting calories and shedding pounds.

The logo "WW" has been used before, including in the company's current app, but Monday marks the start of a company-wide overhaul. But not all are convinced that "WW" is a winner, and that it may instead confuse potential customers tripping over a double-letter tongue-twister.

"Everyone is talking about wellness, and to a degree people don't want to use the word 'diet' because they think it's a more short-term, punitive kind of issue, and that's not what we are," said Mindy Grossman, WW's president and chief executive. "It was very important to us that people understand that this is a 360 degree approach to 'healthy,' no matter how you define that for yourself."

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The name change comes during a strong run for the 55-year-old company. In August, WW announced it had finished its second quarter with 4.5 million subscribers - an increase of 1 million compared to one year ago. Revenue in the second-quarter was up 20 per cent year-over-year. In February, Ms Grossman announced a target of hitting US$2 billion in revenue by 2020.

Over the past few years, the company has ridden a boost from billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who bought a 10 per cent stake in the company in 2015 and signed on to its board of directors. Its share price surged on the heels of the partnership, and Oprah has since debuted in ad campaigns talking about her own weight loss - and her unflinching love of bread.

Along with the name change, WW announced a WellnessWins rewards programme "for small, everyday behaviours" like tracking meals, activity and weight. Monday's announcement included news of a voice integration programme with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, as well as an updated FitPoints programme which tracks and encourages physical activity.

Linda Bolton Weiser, a senior analyst at the management services company D A Davidson, said the name change wasn't surprising given the company's past use of the acronym and its increasing emphasis on well being over weight. Ms Weiser said she is projecting strong growth, albeit slightly less than 2018, for the coming year, in part supported by "WellnessWins" and other new initiatives. Ms Weiser said she is forecasting 12 per cent revenue growth in 2019, compared with 19 per cent growth projected for 2018.

In an analyst report this month, she wrote that WW "will enter 2019 with a solidly growing subscriber base and a new loyalty programme that should be a positive for membership growth in diet season 2019." A messaging shift away from strict dieting fits with broader cultural trends, said Beth Egan, an advertising professor at Syracuse University. But "WW?" "I can't imagine what they're thinking," Ms Egan said. WP