It’s not OK for Weight Watchers to capitalize on mental illness

weight watchers

This tweet “won the internet” this week.

It’s a cheeky commentary on the adidas brand’s decision to break its deal with Ye (Kanye West) at a $250 million loss.

The rap artist has made a series of awful antisemitic and racist comments, and brands are running away, which is the right thing to do.

However, I am disappointed with Weight Watchers and its tweet. Here was my reply on Twitter:

weight watchers

I need to point out that I might be the only person in the world who did not think this tweet was funny. You can see that at the time of this screenshot, there were 200,000 likes and thousands of comments congratulating the brand and suggesting that the social media manager deserves a raise.

I am not a humorless person. But I also have to look at this tweet through the lens of an experienced marketer.

Anybody in the public eye can be a target of legitimate satire, especially a bold and often polarizing artist like Kanye West. It’s part of the territory when you’re a celebrity.

But this is a celebrity who is sick. He has been open about his struggles with bipolar disorder, which can certainly cause a person to go off the rails (medical professionals weigh in here). His mental breakdowns have been well-documented and he has been hospitalized for his mental illness in the past.

The way the Ye train wreck is unfolding, he could very well be hospitalized again soon.

As I read this tweet, it struck me as a cheap attempt at attention that has nothing to do with the Weight Watchers brand promise. From a marketing perspective, I wondered …

  • Would this tweet be funny if Kanye had been hospitalized later that day? If he tried to hurt himself?
  • Would this tweet be funny if the target was somebody who had a stroke or had another physical or mental disability?
  • Weight Watchers is supposed to be about positivity and support. How is this on-brand?

I hope this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. I do not support Kanye West. I am not justifying his actions or comments in any manner.

I just wanted to provide an alternate perspective that perhaps it’s shitty for a brand to joke about any person’s disability and their path toward insanity. Why go there?

Mark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram. Discover his $RISE creator community.

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