FoodMarketing and Advertising

Heavy Duty: How Weight Loss Drugs Are Rocking Pharma, Food, and Fitness Brands

  • Vibe shift alert! How does marketing food, pharma, and fitness change when 750 million Americans are obese?
  • What hit song was the basis for the Ozempic jingle?
  • How does the “quick fix” afforded by diet pills affect the marketing of almost every other category?

When megastar Barbara Streisand innocently posted a comment on social media about actress Melissa McCarthey, it ended up on the front page of the New York Times. What was the nature of this blockbuster journalistic scoop? Stop the presses! Babs posted, “Did you take Ozempic?”


Since McCarthey looked so great – even svelte – in a photo from an event she posted on Instagram, the Times noted, “Screenshots of the comment began circulating soon after, with many viewers criticizing Ms. Streisand for inquiring publicly whether another celebrity was taking weight-loss medication.”

Streisand and McCarthey are good buddies, so this brouhaha turned into merely a simple “ha ha.” However, the fact that this even got on the radar of arguably the best-known newspaper on planet Earth, is a heavy-duty deal.

What This Means for You — As the NYT added, “Ozempic is part of a relatively new class of medications, used in treating diabetes and obesity, that have surged in popularity in recent years. While it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for diabetes, people have increasingly been using Ozempic off-label to lose weight.” These drugs have hit pharma, food, fitness, health & wellness, and a few dozen other categories like a ton of bricks. Are these drugs coming for your brand? To find out, read on.


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Marketing Weight Loss


It’s a good bet that anyone watching television in the past couple of years has heard the catchy jingle that begins with “Oh, Oh, Oh Ozempic.” Pop culture aficionados know that this jingle started as a song written by David Paton in his1974 chart-topping tune “Magic.” After they slap their foreheads, working songwriters will be chagrined to learn that the remaking of this radio-friendly tune has made Paton a cool $1 million more in royalties from the Ozempic jingle.

The jingle is great, but Ozempic is just one product in this category. In fact, Wegovy may be better known, and it is another diabetes drug owned by the same company.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The popularity of Wegovy and the diabetes drug Ozempic has fueled a meteoric rise for Denmark’s Novo Nordisk Earlier this year (2024), it became Europe’s most valuable company and its market capitalization is currently more than $550 billion.

“Both Wegovy and Ozempic are based on the same active ingredient, semaglutide, and Novo Nordisk is busy developing the next generation of treatments that combine it with other ingredients to enhance benefits and improve other areas of health.”

Note to those college students who are chemistry majors: Don’t nap when “semaglutide” is being discussed. You’ll thank me later.

Ozempic Babies


Clinical trials have shown these drugs can help overweight patients lose 15 – 21% of body weight. Because the worldwide obesity rate has been at chronic levels for decades, and the fact that obesity is a primary cause of diabetes, the success of these drugs has been nothing short of stunning. Plus, they have affected other medical conditions.

The WSJ notes, “The runaway success of semaglutide-based drugs for treating weight loss and diabetes has also yielded extra health benefits, with studies showing that they also cut the risks of stroke and heart attacks, as well as slowing the progression of kidney failure. A recent small study also showed a meaningful improvement in pain and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis.”

However, It’s not all good news.

A report from CNN in May 2024, dealt with the impact these drugs have on fertility of women taking it. “Numerous women have shared stories of ‘Ozempic babies’ on social media. But the joy some experience in discovering pregnancies may come with anxiety about the unknowns, as these medicines haven’t been studied in people who are pregnant.”

The CNN report notes that Wegovy, Ozempic and another diabetes treatment drug called Mounjaro are part of a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which act by mimicking hormones in the gut involved in insulin regulation and appetite. Fertility experts have noted that weight loss can generally be associated with increased fertility by restoring normal ovulation in people who have abnormal cycles. Also, the drugs work in part by slowing the rate at which food moves through the stomach. This can make people feel full for longer but also could interfere with absorption of other medicines, including birth control pills. The most troubling aspect of these drugs with pregnant women relates to the size of the babies.

The Disruptive Power of Weight Loss Drugs


The weight-loss “industry” is huge, and it has the potential to tip the scales on a wide range of other product categories. Why? According to the New York Times, “There are roughly 750 million obese people worldwide, including about 42 percent of adults in the United States, where obesity-related illnesses incur billions of dollars in health care costs each year.” Any drugs that reduce these numbers, even a small fraction, can potentially disrupt dozens of other product categories.

Here are some categories that are feeling the pressure from drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic.


  • Weight loss product companies

    The NYT reports, “For decades, weight loss companies have relied on branded, prepackaged meals and lifestyle programs. Some, like WeightWatchers and Noom, have raced to sell GLP-1 drugs themselves, while others still hope their products can survive the Ozempic era. Jenny Craig shut its weight loss centers in May after 40 years.”


  • Big retailers

    Retailers like Kroger and Walmart are showing declines in the sales of snack foods and soft drinks but seeing an increase in traffic from people looking for products like Ozempic. These customers are buying other (presumably healthier) products while they are there.


  • Healthcare

    Costing more than $1,000 per month, these weight loss drugs are too expensive for most to pay out-of-pocket. So, health insurance will be forced to deal with these expenses in some way. A good example of this challenge has shown up in procedures. Several media have reported that Medtronic has seen a “modest” dip in bariatric surgery, presumably as people opted for weight loss drugs instead.

    Plus, Novo says GLP-1 drugs could eventually have other uses, like helping prevent cardiovascular disease among obese adults. The company says there are signs they could treat addiction and even Alzheimer’s.


  • Workout facilities

    No where is the effect of these diet drugs more profound than in gyms and other workout facilities, especially those that cater to an upscale clientele. CNN reports, “America’s gyms are adjusting their strategies as more of their members take weight loss drugs. Luxury gyms such as Life Time are acquiring weight loss clinics with doctors who can prescribe GLP-1s, while Equinox is designing exercise programs specifically for people taking the medications.

    “But gyms are still about building muscle, too. One common side effect for some patients taking these medications is muscle loss. So, gyms are now starting to market their brands to existing members who say they are on GLP-1s, and hoping they can add memberships in the future as people on these medications seek to keep and build muscle.”

Five Tactics for Dealing with This Weight Loss Vibe Shift


It’s easy to see a broad social “Vibe Shift” is occurring due to the success of these weight loss wonder drugs. It is also clear that this will continue to affect more and more product categories, and, in many cases, aspirational marketing will dominate.

As always, there are marketing practices that can take advantage of this shift. Here are 5 to consider.

  • Brands should always strive for authenticity in paid and social campaign creation, messaging and image direction. Stock photo companies such as SuperStock with highly organized archives and creative consultants who know how to find just the right image in time to easily meet a publishing deadline, can save time and money.

  • Video rules on social platforms and original video can be very expensive. Stock video is cost-efficient and creatively effective.

  • This healthier living environment will favor user-generated content which is more believable and thus more compelling, especially to younger demographics.

  • Earned media opportunities abound for products and services that want to align with a healthy-living trend. Click here for tips on how brands can tap into these opportunities.

  • Be aware of cultural sensitivities when it comes to body types and messaging. The look of models in media will vary depending on the target market. What works for one ethnic group might not work for another. Researching this will pay big dividends on responses.

The Quick Fix Is In


The lure of looking and feeling great, without doing a lot of boring exercise, is irresistible. These new weight loss drugs have tapped into this “quick fix” and many, if not most, services and products, will either adjust or follow companies like Jenny Craig and close the doors.

In the meantime, if over the long run these drugs can reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes and potentially other chronic conditions, without injurious side-effects, society will greatly benefit, and Big Pharma can celebrate all the way to the bank.


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Art Young
Experienced Writer with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Crisis Communications, Journalism, and Media Relations. Strong arts and design professional with a B.A. focused in Political Science from The University of Texas at Austin.

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