If Not Now, Well, Gosh, When?
There’s a great deal of talk right now about Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVB), which are things like Bonobos, Dollar Shave Club and the like. Brands which are born for the internet and then may (or may not) expand into physical reality. The notion is that this is the way to launch brands now. The further notion is that there will not be a reverse migration. Cool starts digitally and then shows up as needed in cool neighborhoods. But today’s Big Brands can’t colonize the digital space, primarily because they are so uncool, big, clunky and come wrapped in big corporate packaging. They’ve lost their focus and the passion of their appeal. DNVBs feed on passion, creating it, leveraging it and monetizing it.
As I’m thinking about this, I’m also thinking about Weight Watchers International. The CEO has been booted and the analysts are having an “I told you so” field day. Meanwhile the stock price looks like a Rocky Mountain range, pre-, post- news of Oprah’s involvement.
The question, of course, is what would John Donne have done with these two unlikely objects? DNVB and Weight Watchers. What a conceit to yoke them together, and yet. Could Weight Watchers be re-imagined as a DNVB, with cool bastions of effective weight loss coaching showing up in all the right ‘hoods – and languages? Made relevant and resonant for more than a middle-aged suburban woman’s challenges. The passion is certainly there, both on the part of the coaches and the members. The need is certainly there too, as the developed world slouches towards universal obesity. So, the underlying question becomes: Is there the vision and organizational will?
I’m hoping Oprah has the metaphysical leadership chops to re-imagine this clunky old brand as a fresh, sparkling, passion-fueled player in the new world imaginarium evolving before our eyes (and wallets). Let’s go beyond milking the ‘installed base’ of 48-year-olds with an endless 15 pounds to shed.
Maybe it’s just my reverence for a powerful brand for which I once worked. Or my sadness to see the exodus genuine strategic innovation migrating from such brands. One hates to see the brain drain devolve into a brand drain, but it’s hard not to think this is the last hurrah for this one. One more chance and then whoosh! Into the storm drain of history.