Launched by the Thompson Medical Company back in 1977 Slim-Fast was the original diet-shake.
Unilever said it was going to make it the centre-piece of its weight management strategy. What became apparent was that its marketing skills don't transfer well to the weight management arena.
Unilever’s weight management strategy an expensive failure
Problems with Slim-Fast began almost immediately after Unilever executives took over the controls. Sales of $600 million (€460 million) in 2000, the year Unilever bought the brand, slid to $550 million (€423 million) by 2002, despite Unilever upping marketing investment.
Then in 2003 the Atkins Diet burst onto the scene and Slim-Fast – with its carbohydrate-heavy shakes, powders and bars – was in trouble. Sales fell more than 20% in 2003 alone, to about $410 million (€315 million).
By 2012 Slim-Fast's sales had fallen by 70% compared to when Unilever bought it. Haemorrhaging.
Over the years Unilever tried every possible tactic to reverse the slide – and every one has proved a failure. A few examples:
- Changing the product portfolio
- New marketing slogans
- Focusing on value and low prices
- Loyalty points
- Focusing on social media
- Supermodel presence: Slim-Fast brand was originally grown on the back of celebrity endorsements, which Unilever scaled back. It revived these, with Rachel Hunter – the supermodel best known as the former wife of ageing rocker Rod Stewart – representing the brand.