Targeted consumer marketing tactics tip the scale for one super-sized weight loss program

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Targeted consumer marketing tactics tip the scale for one super-sized weight loss program
Targeted consumer marketing tactics tip the scale for one super-sized weight loss program

Jenny Craig
Unique Web visitors: 173,000
2010 net revenue: $432 million

Nutrisystem
Unique Web visitors: 207,000
2011 net revenue: $401.3 million

Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, major players in the $60 billion weight loss market, have much in common when it comes to their direct marketing approach. Both brands invest heavily in celebrity spokespersons and have voracious social media appetites. The two companies place significant weight in advertising during the summer months; yet the brands seem to be looking to appeal to different consumers, and both have areas they need to get in shape.

“It's an interesting comparison because each one outweighs the other in certain aspects,” says Giles McGrath, creative director at online performance marketing agency MediaWhiz. “Take each brand's homepage,” he says, “Jenny Craig lays out materials conducive to actually going through and learning about offerings. Whereas when looking at Nutrisystem's homepage, your eyes practically explode—there is messaging all over the place.”

McGrath goes on to say that while Jenny Craig's homepage was clearer and easier to navigate than Nutrisystem's, he found it took a “nosedive” when clicking on the “How it works” link. “I clicked on the link and there was an immediate pop-up. It was difficult to discern what they were talking about. I clicked on the pop-up and was even more  confused as there was no information about their products,” McGrath adds.

And here's where Nutrisystem gained some points. Although its initial homepage is unfocused, the site “walks you through four easy steps—it really has the process down,” says McGrath, wondering if Jenny Craig isn't merely “resting on its laurels” and “just assuming people know how its services work.”

McGrath also questions Jenny Craig's artistic approach, wondering about the function of the big zipper on its site. He adds dryly: “I guess you're supposed to think you can finally zip up your pants after you complete Jenny Craig's program. But this zipper doesn't move.” McGrath also slams Jenny Craig's logo, which he points out is too similar to Time Warner's logo.

Matt Rizzetta, CEO of North 6th Agency, a brands communication firm, found Nutrisystem's marketing strategy to be much more “in your face” than Jenny Craig's, whose marketing strategy he says is “a bit more gentle and focuses on a more consultative approach.”

Consultative, perhaps—but also mysterious; details on pricing and products are tricky to come by on Jenny Craig's website. “The company is pretty tight-lipped about its prices,” notes Billy Joe Pyle, cofounder and creative director of creative agency Mint Advertising, adding: “I couldn't find out any pricing information in my search,” Pyle adds.

Nutrisystem, however, is all about dollar signs; marketing to an audience looking to lose weight but working with a tight budget. And while it's helpful to know how much Nutrisystem's offerings cost, Pyle feels their approach is “too sales-y.”

Once registering for email on Jenny Craig's site, McGrath, Rizzetta, and Pyle all received emails within a minute—though from an informational standpoint, the messages were underweight. “The email mentioned an exclusive offer to get $25 off with your first order,” says Pyle, “but it was still hard to get a real idea of the cost. I wanted to know: $25 off what?”

Though Jenny Craig's email skimped on portions, at least it was served quickly. McGrath never received an email confirming his registration with Nutrisystem. Pyle starved for nearly an hour before receiving a morsel from Nutrisystem after a convoluted signup process. “I had to really hunt for the link to sign up for Nutrisystem's email,” he says.

Another difference: Unlike Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem tries to appeal to both men and women. “If I signed up for Jenny Craig, I'd have to hide it from my friends,” Pyle remarks. Rizzetta says that Nutrisystem makes a concerted effort to appeal to the male audience with “Before and After” photos of male customers and a male celebrity spokesperson, Terry Bradshaw.

McGrath says that even if he were a woman, he would choose Nutrisystem over Jenny Craig because “it's straight-forward about how the system works.” McGrath also finds that Nutrisystem's social media presence is consistent—(e.g., spotlighting celebrity endorser Janet Jackson across its social channels). By contrast, “it feels like Jenny Craig is all over the place,” McGrath says. “There needs to be a holistic brand across all its media, but its website and social feels like it was designed by two different agencies.”

McGrath adds that while he was researching the brands, Jenny Craig's Twitter was down for days. “A major no-no,” he says.

Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are in the same weight class when it comes to number of followers on Facebook and Twitter, Rizzetta notes, but he too would give the nod to Nutrisystem “when it comes to most effective use of social media, as the brand is clearly making the extra effort to interact directly with its followers and to incorporate special promotions and discounts directly from its social media channels,” Rizzetta says.

Pyle agrees that Nutrisystem does a better job at engaging fans, noting that the brand conducts informative polls on its social sites. Still, the feeling that he was being “sold something” was a definitive minus for the brand, he says. “There's no emotional connection with Nutrisystem—just offers and numbers. I feel like I'd be better taken care of at Jenny Craig.” Pyle adds that Jenny Craig's overall art feels “inspirational and fun,” portraying the company's offerings as a weight program that is fun and not a struggle to do, and showing groups of female friends “having fun.”

Pyle also likes the Jenny Craig image the company uses in print and online of a woman successfully buttoning her pants. “Struggling to zip up your pants is an image every woman can relate to at some point in her life,” argues Pyle. “You don't even see her face in this ad; she can be anyone.”

The idea of relating to real customers may be one both brands should develop—perhaps on YouTube where both are active and focused on the testimonies of celebrities. For McGrath, Jenny Craig made a bad call in using Nicole Sullivan as a spokesperson, because as a MadTV comedian, audiences are used to seeing her in parodies. McGrath adds that freeze-frame video of Sullivan that Jenny Craig features on its site doesn't autostart as he thinks it should, and that [Sullivan] “looks insane,” he says.

Pyle simply feels alienated. “Sure, a celebrity who probably has a personal trainer and a personal chef can succeed,” says Pyle, “but these brands should be posting more user-generated success stories so it's relatable. Those stories are hidden.”

Brand Champion

Through cheery artwork and responsible emailing, Jenny Craig is the more nurturing of the two brands, but it lacks consistency across all its media channels and doesn't target male consumers. Nutrisystem, though perhaps lacking personality, cuts through the fat of its campaign with a strong message that targets men and women and is clear on pricing. Jenny Craig may want to trim down its corporate approach, while Nutrisystem should fatten its emotional appeal. Yet, Nutrisystem engages its audience better.

Click here for more Battle of the Brands.

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