Obesity as a Disease: A Study on how Overweight Americans Perceive Weightloss Brandsin the Context of Obesityas a Disease

Elena Gabriele Evans

Student thesis: Master thesis


This research has a goal of answering the question, How do overweight Americans perceive weight-loss brands in the context of obesity as a disease?. To answer this question, the research investigates both the perceptions of the context as well as of the impact of the context on weightloss brands. To explore this question, a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methodologies was utilized. Additionally, Keller’s Customer-Based Brand Equity model forms the theoretical foundation. First, multiple insights regarding the context of obesity as a disease were discovered. This research showed uniform opinions about the Obesity Epidemic, but differing reactions to the label of obesity as a disease. More specifically, this research provides evidence that the Obesity Epidemic is a reality, a problem, and a topic of interest for overweight Americans. Furthermore, Americans believe that diet and exercise is always the logical first step in weight-loss, before using any weight-loss brand. Ideally, Americans would like to have a weight-loss option that provides significant and sustainable weight loss, but currently no brands are meeting these expectations. Additionally, there are divided opinions regarding the label as a disease, which is important as only those that believe obesity is a disease perceive there to be a noticeable impact on weight-loss brands. Second, it was discovered that the label of obesity as a disease has no uniform impact on weightloss brands and their brand equity. Instead, those that believe obesity is a disease, perceive some brands to be positively influenced while others to be negatively, while those that do not believe the label, perceive no impact at all. There are also differing levels of impact for each component of Keller’s Customer-Based Brand Equity model, with the rational components being far more impacted than the irrational, providing evidence that overweight Americans respond to the disease label rationally. Third, this research showed that consumers are not able to separate brands from their environment, providing support of adding “Environmentally-Driven Need” to Keller’s brand equity model. Finally, as it was discovered that weight-loss brands are impacted uniquely from the label of obesity as a disease, communication recommendations are provided for each brand included in this research.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages106