Kellogg has unveiled a new campaign for its Special K brand in the US, a marketing push that focuses on the emotional benefits of following a diet regime rather than the absolute number of pounds shed, according to analysts at Datamonitor. The campaign, the analysts say, seeks to inspire more positivity and less guilt where weight is concerned, with the intention of helping consumers to stick to their goals. This approach may well help to overcome certain hurdles which have tripped dieters in the past.

January is a particularly significant time of year when it comes to weight management. Consumers, often driven by the indulgences associated with the Christmas period, vow to address concerns they have regarding their weight. Resolutions are made but seldom adhered to, representing a substantial challenge for manufacturers of weight management products. Getting consumers to acknowledge their need to lose weight is the easy part, but facilitating a successful program has proven altogether more difficult.

It is easy to see why the weight management industry is such a lucrative one. Datamonitor consumer survey data from July and August 2010 show that just under half (49%) of all consumers are actively trying to lose weight. In the US, where 70% of the adult population is either overweight or obese (by the World Health Organization’s definition), the percentage of willing weight losers was 55%. The plethora of products designed to address weight loss is overwhelming, from low sugar/fat products and functional foods touting fat-burning properties, to slimming pills which aid satiety. The global market value runs into hundreds of billions of dollars.

Special K is an iconic brand as far as dieting is concerned. Over the years, Kellogg’s has launched a variety of cereals and snacks under the brand name, to the point where it is synonymous with the notion of a low fat breakfast option. In an attempt to maintain its position at the forefront of the market, Special K has announced a new campaign entitled “What Will You Gain When You Lose?” The objective of the campaign is to encourage consumers to look beyond the weight that they are actually losing and instead think about how the process of losing weight makes them feel. The company hopes that this approach will have an encouraging effect on those consumers who struggle to maintain a strict weight management regime.

To this effect, Mylene Pollock, creative director for Special K at the Leo Burnett agency, told MediaPost: “The Special K Challenge provides the kick-start that women are looking for in January, but this campaign’s approach recognizes that for most women (and men, for that matter) weight loss and maintenance are a 24/7 journey. Shifting the focus to how you want to feel provides the ongoing, positive motivation to take the longer view, including getting back on track when those inevitable missteps occur.”

One piece of promotional activity undertaken by the company with the intention of illustrating this point took place in New York’s Times Square, on 3 January. People were encouraged to step onto a giant set of weighing scales and have their reaction projected onto a big screen for all to see. However, rather than revealing a weight, the scales instead displayed a motivational message designed to provide inspiration and a feel-good factor. Consumers who may have been reticent or unwilling to see their own results following the holiday period were therefore actually rewarded.

The “challenge” angle has proved successful over the years because it gives consumers a quantifiable target and a goal to aim for. However, because not all consumers are motivated by the same things, it can adversely affect consumers who deviate from their programs. While short-term targets can be inspirational, it also provides the potential to register “failure.” Special K has acknowledged this, despite using such challenges as a focal point of its marketing.

In many ways, the campaign echoes the movement in the health food and beverage industry as a whole, in shifting from a mentality of “moderation and avoidance” to one of “positive nutrition.” Expectations of the benefits of food and drink have risen greatly, to the point where consumers are demanding products which are good for them, rather than products which are simply reformulated to include fewer unhealthy ingredients. Similarly, Special K is seeking to inspire emotional well-being by highlighting potential improved confidence and self-esteem, rather than just treating weight as a tangible concept represented by a number.

It is important that consumers retain a positive mental attitude where weight management is concerned, because it is feelings of disappointment or guilt which encourage overeating and/or consumption of the wrong types of products. By taking an approach which is more grounded in encouragement, Special K hopes that its campaign can eradicate these feelings and therefore keep these consumers on the right track. In a market where “guilt-free indulgence” is an emergent concept, there is considerable potential for success in such a strategy.