Slim-Fast

Taking the "Wait" out of Weight-loss,
one Wedding at a Time...

Every bride-to-be wishes for the same thing (and no, it’s not that the groom shows up on the wedding day!) Her wish is to fit into her beautiful wedding dress. Nobody understands this desire better than Slim-Fast. The brand’s “bulging brides” campaign uses a fear appeal to persuade body-conscious brides-to-be to purchase the product. The dramatization approach, through use of figurines, creates humour in the ad which acts as comic relief from the fear tactic, and sheds a positive light on the insecurity-provoking brand.

Though Slim-Fast clearly understands the female mentality, the brand is excluding a significant market segment by encouraging its overly-feminine perception. In fact, many people don’t even know Slim-Fast can be used by men! To remain competitive in the increasingly fragmented diet market, I suggest that Slim-Fast target the male dieter, using sponsored consumers to increase knowledge and spread the word that men use Slim-Fast too!

Ad analysis written by:
Madeline MacKenzie

Target Audience & Brand Positioning

The above Slim-Fast print ad is clearly a "not-so-subtle" way of targeting brides-to-be. This choice of target successfully exploits Slim-Fast’s brand positioning, as a simple and effective weight-loss solution yielding fast results. The ad’s specific word choice of “Need to lose a little weight before the wedding?” emphasizes this brand positioning perfectly, with the implication being that there is a solution to this ever-present issue for brides-to-be, and that it is as simple as drinking a milkshake.

It is interesting to note that the ad doesn't show the body of the bride figurine, enabling a more diverse target audience. If the figurine was significantly overweight, women who do not associate with that body type would not consider themselves part of the target market, and vice versa.

Emotional Appeals

Humour and FEAR

With relatively little textual information, the ad uses both humour and fear to grab attention, stimulate interest, and raise the persuasiveness of the ad. While fear is the key form of emotional appeal, the humour developed by portraying plastic figurines as live beings softens the blow of the fear appeal. It has been found that fear appeals work best when they are not too strong, when source credibility is high, and when the communication promises, in a believable and efficient way, to relieve the fear it arouses.[1] As a result, using humour actually increases the effectiveness of the ad.

Conative/Behavioural Tactic

FEAR

It is highly uncommon for brides-to-be to be fearful of literally falling through the cake at their wedding. Nevertheless, the ad thrives of women’s body insecurities and fear that their guests and new husband will view them as being overweight. Once Slim-Fast has successfully roused this fear, it encourages the consumer to purchase the product to alleviate this anxiety. In this way, Slim-Fast is eliciting a consumer response more directly than it would through other tactics, as the decision to purchase the product is presented as the only clear way to avoid the fear.

Affective Tactic

Humour

In addition to softening the blow of the fear appeal, using humour helps to develop positive consumer attitudes towards the brand. If this ad simply showed an overweight woman falling through the dance floor at her wedding, women would likely view Slim-Fast negatively, as it would be humiliating a character with whom they likely associate. Using figurines lightens the mood, enabling a positive brand association in the presence of a fear appeal.

See below a video example of how Slim-Fast uses humour in their ad campaigns!

Executional Framework

Dramatization

The Slim-Fast ad utilizes a dramatization framework. Though it is similar to the “slice-of-life” approach by first presenting a problem and then presenting the solution, there is a higher level of excitement and suspense associated with the Slim-Fast ad derived from the use of figurines instead of human beings.

Hierarchy of Effects

Conviction... and Purchase Decision?

The most important hierarchy aimed at in the Slim-Fast ad is conviction. As the fear appeal utilized is quite a persuasive tactic, the idea is that the target consumers will be convinced that Slim-Fast is the right choice for their rapid weight-loss needs. However, because the ad centers on the urgency of the fear, it actually targets the purchase decision as well. Essentially, the message purveyed through the ad is that unless the consumer decides to purchase right away, she will be embarrassed and uncomfortable at her wedding. Because the fear appeal used in this ad highlights the urgency of the issue, its purpose is to elicit strong conviction and encourage the consumer to move into the purchase decision hierarchy of effect, simultaneously.

Possible Expansion of the Campaign

Knowledge

The diet industry is highly fragmented and Slim-Fast has lost its majority market share over the years.[2] As a result, I believe Slim-Fast needs to find a way to increase its consumer base. Overall, Slim-Fast’s brand is perceived as being feminine, and the bridal campaign aligns well with this perception; however, Slim-Fast is missing out on what could potentially be a HUGE market by excluding men from their target audience.[3]

While reading the online forum for Men’s Health, I noticed that a considerable number of men are unaware whether or not Slim-Fast was suitable for men. One user commented, “As far as I know, Slim Fast can be used for blokes no problem...” while another user wrote, “I don’t think slim fast is geared at men”.[4] Slim-Fast’s marketing director stated that, “Historically, men and women have used it,” and Slim-Fast is currently on the search for a new male celebrity endorser (rumour has it Eminem, aka. "Slim Shady", may fill the role!)[5]

Video: Diet Wars

Using Spokespeople for Weight-loss Solutions

Clearly, Slim-Fast is completely suitable for men, and yet there are still many men out there who have no knowledge of this fact. As a result, I suggest that Slim-Fast target the "knowledge" hierarchy effect, to gain a portion of the male diet market.

Though Slim-Fast is searching for a male celebrity endorser, I don’t believe this will be the most effective tactic. Consumers often don’t trust that what works for a celebrity when losing weight will work for them. One poster on a diet blog wrote, “If they get super-skinny, it still doesn't mean much (given their trainers & chefs and financial incentives, etc.)”. I believe this would be especially true for men, who want proof that regular men like them use the femininely-perceived product for weight loss (and not Eminem who was paid millions of dollars to do so!)

Sponsored Consumers

I suggest that Slim-Fast integrate sponsored consumers into its marketing communications plan. To get the ball rolling, Slim-Fast should sponsor/enlist overweight men interested in losing weight as brand ambassadors. They would receive the Slim-Fast diet program for free and likely receive additional compensation. In return, they would relay information regarding the product’s attributes and benefits (cognitive messages) to their male friends and acquaintances. The sponsored consumers will contribute to increasing knowledge among male consumers and hopefully encourage the creation of spontaneous word-of-mouth, spreading the message that Slim-Fast is great for men too!

References

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