(Updates with closing share price in sixth paragraph.)
By Leslie Patton
Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Celebrity endorsers are out and
“real” people are in as weight-loss company Nutrisystem Inc.
tries to woo Americans looking to drop a few pounds after
With Nutrisystem heading into the diet industry’s most
lucrative time of year, the U.S. seller of pre-packaged calorie-
conscious meals will put Marie Osmond
and Dan Marino
on the back
burner and use testimonials from customers instead.
“These are real people, we want them to inspire others,”
Chief Executive Officer Joe Redling
said in an interview.
The switch in marketing strategy comes as Horsham,
Pennsylvania-based Nutrisystem trails its rivals. While Weight
Watchers International Inc.
also lost customers when consumers
pulled back during the recession, Nutrisystem has lagged behind
as the economy improved.
boosted third-quarter sales by 1.9 percent;
Nutrisystem sales fell 4.1 percent. Since Redling, 52, took the
helm in 2007, annual revenue has slumped 32 percent.
55 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $21.06 at 4
p.m. New York time today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The
shares have fallen 32 percent this year.
“They’ve had a tougher time getting people to sign up,”
said Kurt Frederick
, a San Francisco-based analyst for Wedbush
Securities Inc., who rates
the stock neutral. “Trying something
different is a good idea.”
The new campaign marks the first time in Nutrisystem’s 38-
year history that it has taken a break from using celebrities
pitch its meals, priced at $299 for a month’s supply.
Starting in September, the company mailed hundreds of Cisco
Systems Inc. Flip
video cameras to clients, seeking first-person
diet anecdotes, said Redling, who called the response
Charlotte Husser, 54, is one of several dozen customers
featured in the company’s new television commercials.
“What you’re hearing from me has to come from the heart;
there’s no script,” said Husser, who says she shed 32 pounds to
a size six after eating Nutrisystem meals for five months.
While Redling says his company will continue to use Osmond
and Marino in its ads, celebrity endorsers are risky, said Bob
, the executive creative director at Baker Street
Advertising in San Francisco.
“Advertisers have to be a lot more cautious about using
celebrities” because their appearance and personal lives are
increasingly dissected in the tabloids and on TV, he said.
“It’s important that they look good 100 percent of the time.”
“Everybody wants to have a good appearance, especially if
you’re on TV,” said Nutrisystem endorser Marino, 49, who played
for the Miami Dolphins football team from 1983 to 1999 and is
now a TV sports commentator for CBS.
“I like the idea” of using real people, he said in a
telephone interview on Dec. 21. “Nutrisystem wants to convey
how they’re helping people lose weight and how it’s affecting
the lives of people that are non-celebrities.”
Osmond, 51, who became famous on the “Donnie & Marie” TV
show in the 1970s, declined to comment for this story.
The Campaign for Real Beauty
used by Unilever to promote
its Dove soap is the “classic” case of using regular folk in
ads, said Kevin Lane Keller, a marketing professor at Dartmouth
College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Dove’s real-person marketing
blitz, which began in 2004, aims to boost the self-esteem of
girls by showcasing real people instead of models. The ads have
featured women ages 20 to 95.
‘Not Personally Relevant’
Movie stars “may not seem as personally relevant because
people don’t see themselves as celebrities,” he said.
“That’s when you’ll bring in someone like a Jared,”
Keller said, referring to Subway spokesman
, Jared Fogle
lost 245 pounds gobbling turkey and veggie subs from the
Milford, Connecticut-based sandwich chain.
Nutrisystem probably chose Husser for the campaign because
her video showed her climbing onto her horse, nicknamed
“Edge,” she said.
“I could not get on my horse by myself. Now of course I
just hop right up there,” said Husser, who lives with her
husband in Hammond, Louisiana. “That’s pretty cool.”
Nutrisystem’s rivals continue to flaunt famous faces headed
into New Year’s resolution time. Actresses Valerie Bertinelli
and Sara Rue blog about dieting for Jenny Craig Inc., which is
owned by Nestle SA
The Weight Watchers’ website features a slimmed-down
, made famous on the television series “American
Idol.” Subscribers can read about Hudson’s seven-day meal plan.
The company declined to comment on Nutrisystem’s ad campaign.
“It’s all about being on television and in front of
customers in the first quarter, especially in January,” said
, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC,
who rates Nutrisystem a “buy.”
The company raised its full-year earnings forecast last
month to $1.12 to $1.16 a share, up from its previous forecast
of $1.07 to $1.12.
Nutrisystem will likely attract 5 percent more customers in
the first three months of 2011 as discretionary spending ramps
up, Pinheiro said. “We are Americans, we like to spend, we’re
tired of saving.”
For Related News and Information:
NutriSystem stories: NTRI US CN
Today’s top consumer stories: RTOP
Top health stories: HTOP
--Editors: Robin Ajello, Julie Alnwick
To contact the reporter on this story:
Leslie Patton in Chicago at +1-312-443-5925 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Robin Ajello at +1-212-617-7261 or