Nestle’s acquisition of the weight loss company, Jenny Craig, sure makes for strange bedfellows. Here’s Nestle, which pumps out such weight-inducing, artery-clogging candies as Nestle Crunch and Nesquik, about to simultaneously market a ‘meal’ of prepackaged low-calorie meals and motivational workshops. Say what?
While the move is a pure profit play since Jenny Craig is red hot in the wake of the Kirstie Alley spokesperson campaign, it does create some interesting mixed messages. In supporting the acquisition, Nestle chief executive and chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, said, "The rise of obesity and resulting metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, is a major public health concern, not only in the U.S.A., but the world over. The Jenny Craig acquisition puts us in the privileged position to help many of our consumers." Well, yeah. But, you’re hurting them at the same time with all that rich, gooey chocolate stuff you’re making.
Maybe, like RJR, which presents a balanced portfolio above and beyond its line of health-wrecking cigarettes, Nestle is justifying its bad stuff with its new line of good stuff. Or, maybe they’ll re-position themselves as a more holistic marketer ("We made you fat. Now we’ll help make you thin. But then we’ll make you fat again…").
If the Nestle "lifecycle" marketing trend takes off, maybe we’ll see other smart partnerships take root. A pediatric clinic, for example, could merge with a funeral parlor chain to create Morning & Night, Inc….."We’re the hello and good-bye people!" Or, how about a tricycle maker partnering with a manufacturer of walkers and canes? ("For your first spin and very last step"). McDonald’s could get into the act by striking a partnership with, say, the Tour de France ("Slowing you down before you speed it up").
I guess Nestle’s made a smart business move, but I sure wouldn’t want to have to explain it to a group of activist shareholders at an annual meeting ("People people! Please calm down. Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe will be happy to answer all of your questions. But, you have to stop eating so many Crunch bars for crying out loud. Those things are like speed. Happily, we have a Jenny Craig clinic starting in a few minutes in one of the breakout rooms so you guys can work off all that pent up stress.")
Hat tip to Moon Kim for this idea.