McDonalds sucker punches Weight Watchers

March 10th, 2010

Interesting announcement made late last week week, McDonalds (only in New Zealand as far as I know) has added Weight Watchers approved food items to the menu.

Copy/Paste from the NZHerald:

“It seems like an unlikely alliance, but Weight Watchers has backed three items on McDonald’s menu.

From today, New Zealand McDonald’s branches are offering three meals that each add up to 6.5 Weight Watchers’ points.

The meals, the Filet-O-Fish, the Chicken McNuggets and the Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken Wrap, are the same meals McDonald’s customers are used to. But 9000 staff in 150 restaurants around the country have had training to make the meals more consistently, with the same amount of sauce each time, so they fall within the points system.

The system allows those on the Weight Watchers’ programme between 18 and 40 points each day, which they must stay within to obtain and retain their goal weight.

The meals are served with salads and water or diet soft drinks.”

I know why McDonalds did this, easy:

  • Help steer image to healthier products
  • Lend some of Weight Watchers brand values (clearly at a price)
  • Generate word of mouth (hey I’m talking about it)

But mostly provide an excuse for people to go into McDonalds (hey I’m getting the healthy option), really though once people are in there they will grab their regular meal.  McDonalds knows that.  That’s why they run new specials, cheap burgers because they know the biggest challenge is getting people to McDonalds – once there they can sell to them.

If you jump over to Weight Watchers Worldwide the first item on their approach is “learn to handle hunger and beat temptation” – dare I say if you are on Weight Watchers giving McDonalds the tick is totally in no way coherent with your mission.  Weight Watchers endorsing McDonalds…fail.

I don’t really need to explain this any more do I?

McDonalds: 1 Weight Watchers: -1,000,000

Give us your thoughts in the comments below…

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12 Responses to “McDonalds sucker punches Weight Watchers”

  1. Naly D Says:

    While I don’t necessarily agree 100% with the decision, I think I can see how it would work.

    My mother was always very overweight while her partner and I were fit, healthy and active. We’d often get fast food. One year she decided to go on a diet and joined Weight Watchers. Because of this, she’d never be able to eat fast food with us, as we would do on the way to watch sporting events, or on Friday night at the beach, etc. If this had existed then, she would have been able to at least join in with us when we went to McD’s instead of feeling like she had to go somewhere else.

    Besides, eating healthily isn’t going to make a difference if you’re not active, just like overeating while being active. It’s about portion control and burning off the excess. I mean we’ve got All Black backs who openly admit to eating McDonald’s day after day, but they don’t put on a thing. Hell, Usain Bolt eats 20 McNuggets as part of his diet, and we all saw what Michael Phelps eats.

  2. Stephen Knightly Says:

    It also helps Weight Watchers. They’ve been trying for a long time to assure people that going on a WW diet doesn’t mean giving up the food you enjoy, whether that’s chocolate or McDs.

  3. Nathaniel Flick Says:

    Weight Watchers is in financial difficulty, on the 4th of March their share price plummeted as share holders sold off their positions.

    An article here agrees with your assessment:

    And to me it just seems like a money grab – but Weight Watchers image is now forever tarnished, McD looks healthy and carries on.

  4. Nathaniel Flick Says:

    I should probably edit my previous comment: not “financial difficulty” but “declining shareprice” and “within adjusted targets (due to the recession)” lead me to believe they are trying to raise their profile.

    Usually, bending your standards for profit implies desperation, but I could just be naive. 🙂

  5. Nathaniel Flick Says:

    More on the shareprice issue here:

    Was at a 52 week high back in late Feb but down $10 in the past 30 days, $8 from it’s 52 week low. Quite a sizeable selloff on less than 1 Million shares traded daily.

  6. Peter Shallard Says:

    I think you’re right on this Ben – definitely a bad move from Weight Watchers.

    I’d like to hope that their brand manager fought against this tooth and nail!

    I can’t help but wonder if (and how much) money changed hands – I’d guess McDonald’s had to buy this endorsement. The fact that they just slapped the Weight Watchers logo on existing products sure indicates that this was more of a “deal” than a collaboration.

    It’ll also be worth noting that purchasing ANY side dish, desert, fries… or whatever, would take the meal WAY beyond 6.5 “points”

    … and McDonald’s staff are trained to deliberately ask for the up-sell.

    – Peter

  7. Naly D Says:

    @Peter Yes, McDonald’s and Weight Watchers have both said that a portion of each WW meal sold will go to WW, but not how much that is worth.

  8. Peter Shallard Says:


    Yeah… that doesn’t surprise me. At least they’re being transparent about admitting SOME coin is changing hands.

    This could be the beginning of the end for WW…. they’re very old school in the sense that their brand is their biggest asset. Once they’ve lost that, the game is over.

    If the WW logo is indiscriminately plastered on everything, it becomes about as meaningless as the “healthy heart” tick.

    Remember that one? Me neither.

  9. ophil Says:

    Hey bwagy, great post though i imagine a pretty ‘traditonal view’ which is not like you!

    My spin is I guess devils advocate-ish but by judging this as fail are we being ‘elite-ist’… McD’s the big evil empire tricking WW and customers again? does this position assume WW and customers are not capable of making the ‘right’ decision

    I guess you could suggest WW wants to make its members feel ‘normal’ and given McD’s is part of the ‘normal’ world by agreeing to the alliance they are enabling their customers to be part of it wihtout feeling ‘deviant’

    Yes McD’s reasoning can be easily understood, but WW could also acheive their objective too…

    In the end its the customers who decide and most of us see thru marketings familar ruses – and even those who don’t should be free to make their own choices

  10. Ben Young Says:

    @OPhil I’m just intrigued that such a low level blow has gone on… some of the further comments suggest Financial difficulties could be motivation behind it. But hey I wouldn’t have found that out unless I posted.

    Thanks all for great comments!


  11. Spida Hunter Says:

    Great post thanks for sharing!

    As a fitness professional I wear a biased hat, however if I take off my coaching hat and look at it through business eyes.

    I think it does a great job marketing BOth companies & the benefit will be in 10yrs time when the kids who go in to macs now subconsciously think tat both WW & macs are a “healthy” place to lose weight!

    They have just united and created another perception that they are both “healthy”!

    I hope it fails but diet coke is still a better alternative, “yeah rite”!!

    Actually, if we drink powerade it’s scientifically proven to increase performance like the all blacks!! To me it’s the same thing as Ww and macs but no one talks about that?!

  12. Adam Says:

    Things at McDonalds have changed a lot. Their burgers have 40% less sugar, and all fried products contain about 87% less saturated fat, thanks to the oil changing 4 years ago, but back to the matter at hand – any product at McDonalds has a points value, and its not hard to find.

    Also, just a comment about the training – as a crew person/trainer, these new procedures for the waight watchers meals are insanely weird. Each crew person is expected to know about the weight watchers meals, what goes in them, and how much goes in.

    If you really think McDonalds is the king of fatty foods, you’ll fidn that it’s quite easy to et a 6 inch sub from subway that has more calories than a cheeseburger combo…

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