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David Kirchhoff by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
David Kirchhoff by Anthony Jenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

THE LUNCH

David Kirchhoff: The real skinny on Weight Watchers Add to ...

Still, the company itself needs to change, too, evolving its focus on marketing from consumers into targeting companies and governments. “It’s about data reporting, it’s about account management, it’s about knowing how to create products that will plug in nicely into insurance plans,” he says. That means learning how to work with federal agencies like the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“I mean, three years ago, I couldn’t even spell CMS,” he says, then laughs. “Sorry, bad joke.”

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CURRICULUM VITAE

Personal

45 years old

Lives in Darien, Conn.

Wife (and “my muse”): Sandee

Two daughters: Harley, 14, and Lila, 12

Career

President and CEO, Weight Watchers International, 2006-present

CEO, WeightWatchers.com, 2004-present

SVP and CFO, Primedia Inc.’s Enthusiast Media Group, 2003-2004

WeightWatchers.com 2000-2003

Director of corporate strategy and development, PepsiCo Inc., 1999-2000

Manager and consultant, Boston Consulting Group

Education

BSc, Biomedical and Electrical Engineering Duke University

MBA, University of Chicago

Tasty quotes

“To this day, my palms sweat when I see brand-name food.”

“My freshman year, I majored in smorgasbord.”

“I now treat ice cream a little bit the way ex-smokers treat cigarettes: with close to zero tolerance.”

Weak spot

“I don’t do To-Do Lists. I can’t. I wish I did. I think it’s probably bad that someone made me CEO of a company, because don’t do To-Do Lists and I think I’m the only one … I’ve got an awesome assistant who helps me create days, and then I just kind of follow the flow.”

___________________________________

PIONEERING THE PAYWALL

When David Kirchhoff and a handful of employees launched WeightWatchers.com in 2000, the company was ridiculed for its hubristic belief that it could charge for access to content on the Internet.

“Our feeling was, if this online product actually helps people lose weight, they will see value in it, and they’ll be happy to pay for it,” he explains. “If it doesn’t help them lose weight, and they don’t see value in it, they won’t pay for it and we should be doing something else. What we could never understand was, why would that be advertiser-supported? Why would you ask an advertiser to pay for your weight-management intervention?”

Their conviction was rewarded, as the website proved such a success that it was one of the models studied by The New York Times when that paper set out to develop the metered access system for its website and mobile offerings. And now, the paid Weight Watchers mobile app is bundled as part of clients’ memberships.

“I’m glad we did it when we did, because we didn’t have to retrain the consumer to get used to the idea of paying for stuff,” he says. “But honestly, I worry. I mean if you give someone a free weight-loss tool, to me that’s something you use for a couple of weeks and get bored. Because if it’s free, what does that say about the value of it?”

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Follow on Twitter: @simonhoupt

 

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