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What Does Rebranding Say About Food Companies?

Food companies like Weight Watchers and Papa John’s are putting rebranding at the forefront of their corporate strategies.

Weight Watchers will no longer sell products with artificial sweeteners, preservatives or colors, and the company is renaming itself WW, reflecting a shift in focus from weight loss to overall health, reported CNBC (Sept. 24). WW’s new tagline is “Wellness that Works,” and the brand plans to launch a new app and a partnership with Headspace, a company that teaches meditation through an app. In addition, the company is starting a program called Wellness Wins, which rewards members for working toward healthier habits.

“This has been part of an evolution of a journey to go from being [the] undisputed leader in healthy eating for weight loss to much broader than that,” CEO Mindy Grossman said. “So not only will you be able to have a weight focus, if you want, you will be able to have a healthy habits focus and be able to get all the assets of support in how you want to live your healthiest life.”

WW also rejuvenated its brand by associating with big-name celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, who joined WW three years ago, as well as influencers like DJ Khaled. The rebrand could help WW maintain its recent success in the highly competitive health and wellness space, which is essential as consumer preferences move away from diet companies.

Papa John’s is also looking to reframe its brand, with the company filing a trademark for a new logo, featuring two rectangles framing “Papa” and “Johns,” reported CNN (Sept. 24). The logo is “more streamlined, more contemporary,” said Tulin Erdem, a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern business school. There are versions of the logo with and without the company’s “Better ingredients. Better pizza” tagline, as well as some in red and green, and some in black and white.

It’s no surprise that Papa John’s is considering a fresh look. The company recently launched two ad campaigns seemingly designed to win back customers and employees.

“Actually changing the name of the company would be tricky,” said Erik Gordon, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “If you change your name, you maybe put at risk even more of the business.”

Erdem agreed that when companies change their names, they lose valuable brand recognition.

“There’s so much awareness around the name,” Erdem said. “I think a company would do that only if really, really the brand is so tarnished, you want to be forgotten.”

Weight Watchers and Papa John’s have built long-term successful brands, so for them, it’s not about wanting consumers to forget them, but rather, the goal is to get consumers to think of them in a new way.