What's in a name?

Apparently, two letters.

Weight Watchers decided to change its name to just WW, rebranding as a wellness company and changing most of its website in the process. You can check out all of the branding by visiting (in case you want to experience some major irony) this site.

So what's the problem?

First, I will point out, as someone who has struggled with weight issues in the past, that I'm a big proponent of sticking with the wellness concept rather than making everything about a number on a scale. We don't need to be telling young kids that they have to weigh a certain weight. We should promote healthy living and an active lifestyle as the top priorities.

My issue is with the name.

It's just dumb, for starters. Everyone is going to call this company by their original name, and it has major brand recognition. Some might argue that you can't use the original name because of how you have changed your purpose, but consumers are way (ahem) more savvy than that. If you're an established brand, they know what you do--they won't just respond because of the name or website. Changing your name might change consumer perception, and you might also argue that the company took the long view on this topic--maybe we'll all forget about the old name. Plus, people will suddenly hear about Weight Watchers all over again. I'm writing about them for the first time ever right now.

Unfortunately, it reminds me of New Coke.

The idea with the Coke rebranding was to introduce a new flavor and to generate buzz. It worked for a while, until everyone realized the product itself wasn't any better. In fact, it was worse. Branding has to support a root cause and purpose; it doesn't create that root cause and purpose. The important part isn't the name. It's what you do.

As you might say: It's the product, stupid.

There's a much bigger problem, though. WW is about the worst possible name you can use in terms of social-media presence, online searches, and anything else slightly techie. Right now, WW brings up the Weight Watchers site, and that's a good thing. Long term, people will not know intuitively to find a company called WW. It would be like searching for FF or LL. The new name is not specific enough, it's just two letters, and that's a terrible idea. Few new customers will ever type ww.com and even fewer will think to do that search.

On social media, it gets worse. The name just doesn't pop, and it even seems like an error. Social media is strongest when everyone shares about your brand, not just a company promoting themselves. A post by a friend who says "I'm really into WW right now" is almost meaningless. It's hard to tag, hard to remember, hard to pronounce. I could see people shortening this to dub dub soon, sending the brand down the flusher pretty quick. I wonder if most people will think, "Ah, you forgot to add a W for WWW."

In a long list of companies, you will skip right over WW. It's two letter and no purpose.

The biggest problem is simply the first impression. When I first heard the company would now be called WW, I thought, "So now we will always say it used to be Weight Watchers." Even the Google stub that comes up when you search reminds us of that.

If you have to constantly explain what something is and what it used to be, you've lessened the brand. It's New Coke all over again (or maybe IHOP).

So...how long until they switch back? We shall see.