In January 2022, I received my Year in Review video from WW (formerly Weight Watchers). The video showed me some fun stats about my participation in the program in 2021. 

  • 191 days of tracking a meal in the WW app
  • 114 non-starchy vegetables recorded
  • 364 days of activity
  • 4,714,339 steps
  • 34 posts to the community social platform

It’s a happy little video with colorful graphics and a bright jaunty tune.

It’s also a marvel of delivering a personalized content experience at scale.

Four and a Half Million Personalized Videos

I suppose I can’t say for certain that every single member – all 4.6 million of us – received a unique video. Judging from the member community, however, it looks like we did. 

The WW app made it so easy to share the videos that they clogged up the feed for a week. People who had not logged in for a while showed up to share their videos. I personally read hundreds out of the tens of thousands of comments. People congratulated each other, reassured each other, and bonded over shared achievements or a determination to “do better” in 2022, whatever that means to them.

For members, it was a massive wave of support, connection, and engagement. For the business, that engagement translated into renewals, new memberships, shopping sprees in the WW store, and increased attendance at both online and in-person wellness workshops. It was exactly what a content professional wants to achieve.

You Only Get What You Give

The WW Year in Review videos can only deliver the information that we provide. It cannot show us the truth about our food, exercise, sleep, or water intake. It can only show us what we told it.

For example, the WW app gives us several ways to track our food. You can search for food in their database and select from the results. The database is full of duplications, so one day you might track “Cheese (cheddar)” and on another day “Cheddar cheese.” You can also do a “Quick Add” and type your description into a free text field. On that day, you might track “cheese” or “cheeez” (or “chess,” if autocorrect can’t figure out what you mean). 

Let’s say you enjoy an ounce of cheddar cheese every day. You track it as free text for 100 days. You track it as “Cheese (cheddar)” for 100 days and “Cheddar cheese” for 165 days. The system can’t reliably match your free text entries with the equivalent foods in the database. The system also treats “Cheese (cheddar)” and “Cheddar cheese” as two different foods. 

This year, we might chuckle if our Year in Review shows us that our three most popular foods were Cheese (cheddar), Cheddar cheese, and Cheese (any type). But next year, we’ll have higher expectations.

A “top 3 list” of three of the same things will trigger annoyance rather than acceptance.

Progress Not Perfection

I encounter the phrase “progress not perfection” at least once a week. It applies to so many aspects of my life. Nutrition. Exercise. Horsemanship studies. Dog agility classes. Organizational change management associated with the adoption of a component-based, structured content management ecosystem.

Most customers have no idea how revolutionary it is for a company to automate the flow of data, copy, graphics, and audio into millions of individual videos. Not to mention all the related activities of creating, designing, programming, and delivering the video in multiple channels (such as email and within the WW app itself). 

After all that, customers typically take about 5 minutes to enjoy the results. Then they take it for granted and demand more. Their expectations increase. They quickly come to expect that level of personalization, not just from that company but for all content everywhere. 

“If WW can merge a member’s food and exercise log into a one-minute video,” they reason, “then why can’t my automobile/dishwasher/vacuum/mesh network router manufacturer show me exactly the support article I need, with my product’s unique specs and procedures automatically filled in – and all unnecessary information automatically filtered out.” 

The WW Year in Review videos make it look easy. 

The WW Year in Review videos are an example of how we’re making progress toward delivering personalized content experiences, rather than waiting until everything is perfect. These videos and the systems that produced them – retrieving data from each member’s personal log, slotting that data into the video template, compiling the individual video, and sending that one video to that one customer – are incredibly complex and far from perfect.

For one thing, the numbers in your Year in Review video won’t match your actual cheddar cheese consumption.

Next Steps

What’s next? How will WW exceed customer expectations in 2023? 

Perhaps 2022 will be the year that WW develops an enterprise terminology standard and removes duplicates from its database. Perhaps they can implement a natural language processor to normalize our free text entries. Then they could match the free text and database entries accurately enough to provide a Year in Review that more closely reflects our wellness journey. 

They also need to standardize their content in all five dimensions, so all their valuable content becomes exponentially more valuable. Taking these steps will enable them to develop other personalized content experiences to keep members engaged (and renewing) and to entice new members to join.

It takes a significant amount of time, effort, and problem-solving skills to get ready to deliver personalized experiences at scale. Writers, illustrators, graphic designers, content engineers, SMEs, software developers, and IT professionals must all come together. 

I commend WW for being a trailblazer in delivering personalized experiences at scale.

Oh, and if you want to see my video, you can watch it here. 

Content Rules has helped numerous companies transform their content ecosystem to enable personalization. We bring expert guidance and proven methodologies to help you design, implement, and use your new ecosystem. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your team achieve your content personalization goals. We literally wrote the book on it!

Regina Lynn Preciado