John LaRosa here... Got back from the MDPA's first annual weight loss industry conference in Silver Spring, MD on 9/27-28. If you weren't there, you missed a great event. Small turnout but very high level and interesting presenters. See www.mdpaconference.com for the agenda.
* The industry's growth has slowed with the recession, but individual companies (like Weight Watchers, Medifast) can still post strong results with great ad campaigns, service and innovative thinking.
* Small weight loss companies can out-market and out-perform giants by being creative and entrepreneurial.
* Look for a major new health information portal called Sharecare to be launched for consumers in Q1 2012. Dr. Oz is a partner. Now offered to hospitals, MDs and other healthcare providers. Very robust platform of tools and community features. See www.droz.com for his $1 million Transformation Nation challenge.
* Weight Watchers recognized by all as the best performer right now - hitting on all cylinders.
* Social media is critical to include in a weight loss marketer's arsenal.
* FTC very active in policing diet frauds and outrageous claims, but staff is limited. They more than have their hands full. In 2007, 4.8 million Americans were victims of diet product/service frauds or scams--more than any other product. FTC has jurisdiction over diet PROGRAMS and SERVICES as well, not just products.
* Glaxo looking to divest itself of the Alli OTC brand.
* Revolution Health bought out by Everyday health.
* Red flag products today for the FTC: Hoodia, HCG, Acai Berry claims.
* Health is not a popular topic for mobile apps. People look for this information via websites, using their computer.
* TV advertising on diet products: Q2 is the biggest spending period--not the 1st quarter. Best to reach female dieters via early morning news, men at night. States where people really take action to lose weight are NOT where you'd expect (i.e. deep South with high obesity rates), but in KY, FL, TX, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado.
* Newspapers ranked #3 in media watched by the obese. These people are more likely to treat their obesity. Obesity rates vary by state and by county, newspapers lend themselves well to local targeting.
* The best performing diet company advertisers are customer "advocates" rather than "advertisers". There's a big difference. An advocate finds a shared purpose--what can we do to help each other? Advocates listen and create "ambassadors" that multiply and go viral. Engage potential customers.
See John LaRosa's Powerpoint slides (industry status report, forecasts for 2011, 2014) from the conference here