Diet firms compete in new year

Countless people make New Year’s reso­lutions, many focused on diet and health. And, no one is more aware of this fact than marketers of weight loss and healthy living products and services.

“We tend to pig out during Thanksgiv­ing and Christmas and all the way through the New Year, so people then tend to want a new start and have a resolution,” said Monica Woo, EVP of e-commerce and CMO for NutriSystem, a diet plan that delivers healthy food directly to consum­ers’ homes. “Yes, we definitely want to fish where the fish are, especially in the month of January. [Our message is] not just about weight loss, but also about having a healthy outlook and lifestyle.”

Earlier this month, NutriSystem launched its “Lose weight. Save money” campaign along with a revamped Web site. The inte­grated campaign includes DRTV, print, display, coupons, search engine marketing and search engine optimization. Woo said it’s especially important to reach consum­ers across all touchpoints with a consistent message: that the plan has both physical and fiscal integrity.

Atkins, a provider of diet bars and shakes, also is running an integrated campaign, “Sweet sexy science,” which launched Janu­ary 1. Print and online banner ads drive to a page on where consumers can print up to two coupons for $1 off any two single Atkins bars. The site also offers free Web tools to help track diet progress, count carbs and plan meals.

“Right now, with the economy being as it is, coupons are a great incentive for new buyers,” said Lisa Wells, brand manager for Atkins. They also are “a great way to encourage new customer trials.”

NutriSystem’s push also uses coupons, and Woo agreed that the discount tools are again becoming a trend. “When people crunch their budgets, they really get back to the basics of cutting coupons and saving pennies,” she said. “Having that visual execution [in our ads] has been very effective for us.”

A sense of online community also can play a role in connecting better with the target demographic. NutriSystem’s new site includes an extended interactive com­munity section.

“This is a really emotional category, so the sharing of tips, recipes and success sto­ries is very, very important,” Woo said.

The Atkins site recently began a rate and review section, and plans to launch addi­tional interactive online tools in February.

Essentially, being able to communicate the value to the consumer is more essential than ever before.

“Some people feel guilty about taking care of themselves because they think, ‘Losing weight is about spending money on me,’ without thinking about other expenses,” Woo said. “It’s a very important part of the consumer psyche right now.”

This is why NutriSystem, in most of its ads, touts the fact that the average person would save $660 per year on food if they use the system.

But, while diet marketing experts say that the first quarter is an important time for conversions, they also agree that engage­ment throughout the year is key.

“Obesity is becoming such an epidemic,” Woo said, “so weight loss can really be a catalyst for someone to be able to regain their health, vitality and confidence. This is why it’s so important to continuously provide solutions to customers year-round.”

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