Diet companies have a recent history of corralling celebrities into being their spokespeople, but is this the best marketing strategy? People who see a celebrity as a diet spokesperson believe that they “know” the person who is losing weight right in front of them. So what happens when this known person gains the weight back?
We all remember Kirstie Alley‘s shining moment on Oprah as she danced around in her bathing suit after her weight loss on Jenny Craig. Jenny Craig gave her the boot when she gained her weight back and she was back on Oprah, this time with conservative dress and a solemn look on her face.
“She dropped, like, 20 pounds in the first three months. Then she, I mean, she had to go off of it. There’s no question. She might have eaten the meals, but she ate the meals with a lot of other stuff. She started a cheesecake company.” Zalmi Duchman, chief executive for Fresh Diets, said.
Despite the setbacks of Wilson and Alley, diet companies are still recruiting shrinking celebrities to represent them. Jenny Craig in particular is looking for any and all celebrities willing to lose a few pounds. Currently Jenny Craig employs Valerie Bertinelli, Carrie Fisher, Sara Rue, Jason Alexander, Nicole Sullivan, and Chelsea Lately round table member Ross Matthews.
However, Nutrisystem is keeping their guard up. They pride themselves on hiring celebrity spokespeople after they have been “real” clients first, said Stacie Mullen, Nutrisystem’s executive of celebrity marketing.
Not everyone in the diet company world agrees with the celebrity marketing. Cheryl Callan, the chief marketing officer for Weight Watchers, said that celebrities can be a distracting marketing tool. In other words, the more celebrity spokespeople, the less eyes on that one person.
Ultimately, celebrities are human, despite common belief, and will gain weight back occasionally. The diet companies say that “backsliding” is not necessarily bad for the company. Gaining weight back is a reflection on the celebrity herself, not necessarily the program.
Sara Rue, who recently lost 50 pounds on Jenny Craig, said that she would be dieting in the public sphere no matter if she were a diet spokesperson or not.
“It was going to be public anyway. I sort of felt like the tabloids were going to write stories about it and people were going to comment about it one way or the other so I might as well take the power back and be like: ‘Yes, here it is all out in the open. There’s nothing to write a story about.’ ” Rue said.
Via New York Times
August 18th, 2011