CMO, Weight Watchers International
Posted on: February 22, 2012 | Go to profile
As Chief Marketing Officer for Weight Watchers North America, Cheryl spearheaded the launch of Weight Watchers PointsPlus®, showcasing the success of Oscar and Grammy winning artist, Jennifer Hudson. A company started by a visionary woman entrepreneur in the 60’s, Weight Wacthers provides knowledge, support and inspiration to people who are looking to get healthy—90% of which are women. Cheryl loves the fact that she can wake up every morning and work for a company that changes lives by promoting women helping women boost their self-esteem.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: I graduated from college and joined an advertising agency in an entry-level position. I “grew up” at DDB Worldwide where I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of businesses (Xerox, Campbell, Crayola, Clairol and J&J). While at DDB I attended Fordham University and got my MBA. By 32 I was an SVP running all of the J&J business at the Agency, which included some great brands from three of J&J’s operating companies.
During the last couple of years at DDB I worked for a woman who was a mentor to me and she left to be CEO of another agency (NW Ayer). She recruited me to go there where I ran the global Avon business. After several years and fantastic experiences traveling the world, I made the decision that I wanted to leave the agency business. I was looking for more control. I wanted to be the decision maker (instead of advising clients). I had the opportunity to go to work at J&J (my former client) and I launched a new discipline within the company’s pharmaceutical sector, creating consumer-marketing programs for a number of women’s health brands. Several years later I got a call about Weight Watchers International, and jumped at the opportunity to revitalize and contemporize this fabulous brand and to work at a mission based company, in the business of changing people’s lives for the better.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Integrity, Compassion/Empathy, Courage
Q: If a business has several, viable ways to grow and innovate, how do you pick the best road to take?
A: At WW we are guided by one key principle: How do we help our members be more successful and do it in a healthy way? That’s how we assess innovation opportunities. We know that the more engaged people are with our program, the more successful they are going to be. We look for ways to improve member engagement, as we know engagement is directly correlated with success. A good example of that is our current focus on expanding our digital mobile offerings, which make it easier than ever to stay on plan and achieve successful weight loss.
Q: What do you believe makes a great brand?
A: Great brands make a strong emotional connection with consumers and deliver the product benefit in a unique and compelling manner.
Q: What do you feel separates your brand from your competitors?
A: We are in the business of teaching people how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. We are about taking control of your life and making the changes you need to lose weight and get healthy. Our competitors are in the business of selling food in a box, which can certainly help one lose weight in the short term, but at the end you haven’t learned anything and you’re very likely to go back to what you were doing before, so the results aren’t sustainable.
Q: If you had the opportunity to give advice to your younger self at say the age 13, what would you say?
A: I would tell myself to be confident and believe in yourself. Remember that if you ever feel like “they are gong to find out that I don’t really know what I’m doing,” that most people feel that way when they take on something new. Don’t worry so much: You’ll figure it out and you’ll be great.
Q: Life is full of setbacks. Can you share an experience of one, and how you were able to bounce back?
A: I was let down in a major way by someone I trusted implicitly and who claimed to be my friend. This prompted me to leave advertising and move to a client-side marketing role. I was disgusted with the advertising business and how the constant fear of losing clients brought out the worst in people (I was at an agency that was going through a lot of challenges and which ultimately went out of business a couple of years after I left). In the end, this was the push I needed to get out of a business that I was no longer enjoying and move into marketing, which I love.
ON Time Management
Q: Online calendars, emailing ourselves, post-it notes… I’m still struggling to find the best way to manage my time and to do list? What’s your method?
A: I try not to be distracted by the millions of things that come up on a daily basis, that seem to require immediate attention, but that really have nothing to do with driving the business or supporting my team. My approach is to be laser focused on those key things that really make a difference and try to ignore everything else.
Q: In theory, one should prioritize their own health in order to be in the best state to take care of others (family, kids, work, etc.). But in reality, I’ve found that women often take care of themselves last. What are your thoughts on this?
A: I think it’s true and I’ve been guilty of that at times. But it’s true that if you’re not healthy, both mentally and physically, it catches up with you, so you’ve got to make some time to take care of yourself. I have taken to scheduling time at the gym (for example) like I would a business commitment. To be honest, it’s early days, but so far it’s working!
Q: How do you balance career and motherhood?
A: One of the great things about motherhood (at least for me) is that it forces you to put some balance back in your life. I am always aware of the fact that I don’t want to suddenly have a teenager and look back with regret at all the things I missed, so I force myself to make commitments to my daughter (to volunteer for a school thing or pick her up on Friday after school for example). I’m lucky to work at a company where we all work really hard, but where the management team does support the concept that family has to come first….within reason.