Weight Watcher’s CEO Talks About Reviving the Company After its “Near Death Experience”
Weight Watchers on Monday announced its new name: WW. It’s the latest step in the company’s dramatic resurgence after what CEO Mindy Grossman calls its “near death experience.”
She’s referring to the period in 2014, when the company’s revenue dropped from a high of $1.84 billion to $1.16 billion as consumers abandoned the brand in favor of free weight-loss apps and other competitors.
The low predates Grossman’s tenure, which began in 2017. While the company was on the upswing by the time she was named CEO, Grossman says her plan to stage a massive reinvention and grow “10x” or more was a shock. “It was like someone who’d had a heart attack and was in bed, telling them they’re going to run a marathon,” she said Monday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Reinvent conference in Chicago.
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But the company rallied behind the new push, says Grossman. She noted: “Too many CEOs come in, and if the company wasn’t doing well, they think the people there aren’t good. But usually it’s the leadership that’s not good.”
Since then Weight Watchers has rolled out a new plan called WW Freestyle, signed up surprising spokespeople like hip-hop producer DJ Khaled and director Kevin Smith, announced a new partnership with meditation app Headspace, launched a rewards program, and, oh, yes, changed its name. The WW moniker is intended to show the company’s move away from a single-minded focus on weight loss—as further evidenced by its new tag line: Wellness that works.
As the company continues to remake itself under its new name, Grossman hasn’t shied away from drastic moves—like cutting 70% of its food products. How does she decide what makes sense for the “new” Weight Watchers? Grossman says she asks her self a few simple, but critical questions: “Will it recruit, will it retain, will be in service of our members, and will it elevate the brand.”