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Weight Watchers exchanges social brand advocacy for meals

Weight Watchers is hoping to boost recruitment with its new Feel Good Cafe in London where customers can sample free meals by posting pictures of the food to social media.

The cafe is one way the weight loss brand is addressing new research revealing that 52 percent of women are uncertain where to begin when contemplating weight loss and only 8 percent feel confident when choosing healthier meal options. While a growing number of brands are leveraging social brand advocacy as a currency in exchange for goods, it is not clear if such a strategy helps build brand loyalty or possibly undermines it by encouraging sharing from consumers who may simply be interested in a free meal.

“Smart brands are leveraging mobile-social interaction as value,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of sales and business development at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Currency is what pays for the product, but the perceived value of a product or service can be increased by using social media and mobile is playing a bigger and bigger role.

“Personal recommendations are a powerful new way of getting a message out and brands know that paying to ensure this happens can yield a quick ROI,” he said.

Multichannel retailing
The café serves Weight Watchers foods to show how dieters can manage their weight while still eating savory food they enjoy.

By offering guests the chance to dine free of charge by channeling positive mantra via social media, Weight Watchers is operating in an arena where “negative connotations and daily contradictory advice on health and nutrition” persist, according to the company.

This is the most recent offering the company has explored to support its other resources such as Weight Watchers meetings, online advisory and a mobile application.

Offering three meals a day, the café will be open until May 23.

Here say
Weight Watchers ProPoints plan passes along information designed to help members lose weight.

A large portion of money is spent on marketing budgets, research and trying to speak to and encourage brand enthusiasts to spread the word about products within their networks.

Social networks can achieve this in really creative ways, and has inspired the way marketers presently attack advertising, pricing and customer acquisition.

A San Jose virtual urgent care company, Telecure, experimented with a short-term pay-by-tweet option for six months in hopes of increasing traffic and raising awareness by having patients vouch for its 15 minute digital consultations, valued at $25.

But the option was quickly discontinued, as Telecure discovered people were using the service dishonestly.

While bribing people for positive brand channeling may seem like cheating, Weight Watchers knows the worth of a tweet or share.

Analytics company SumAll reported last summer that a tweet from a business generates about $25.62 in revenue, while a retweet is worth about $20.37 because of its untargeted nature.

If consumers share a positive brand perception with friends, families and acquaintances, seemingly individuals who trust and value each other’s opinions, then the value of that exposure is almost priceless.

Modest marketing budgets
Customer acquisition costs can be quite expensive and a stunt like this exchanges both PR value and trades free product for real social media promotion by regular people.

Weight Watchers engages consumers in the diners, and hands out free food for them to try and, in turn, they pass on the message, via their social graph, all in the context of the experience.

Because consumers are using social media to discover and share content it only makes sense for companies to test the channel as an emerging form of currency. In early February 2014, Marc Jacobs celebrated New York Fashion Week by opening a pop-up store in SoHo that showcased featured handbags, accessories and fragrance lines.

Guests were allowed to pay for samples other products with posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #MJDaisyChain rewarding the large following the brand has on its social channels.

The Marc Jacobs pop-up tweet shop

California-based logistics startup Doorman also gives back to its customers, allowing limitless tweeting and posting for free deliveries, which typically run $7 per package.

The company does not regulate on free deliveries because it found individuals used the service an appropriate two times a month, and believes this self-regulation is due to consumer consideration of spamming their networks.

In another recent example, Birds Eye opened a new concept restaurant this week, The Picture House, which enables customers to settle the bill by sharing Instagram pictures of their food.

Birds Eye’s initiative seeks to build the brand on social media after research found that 52 percent of diners regularly photo document their meals (see story).

Brands are beginning to give customers something in exchange for brand advocacy, and are opening communication to consumers concerning value in word-of-mouth exposure by literally giving them something of value.

“Money is money, but, increasingly brands are assigning a value to the fact that their best customers can do a lot of their marketing for them. Obviously hearing about a great product from someone you know, and who uses hat product, is far-more compelling than seeing an ad run by the company that sells it,” Mr. Kerr said.

Final Take:
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York