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After Jenny Craig CEO Monty Sharma added interim CMO to his title, he shed a few misconceptions he had about marketing.

I have a newfound appreciation for marketing. After being a CEO for many years, I recently assumed the role of interim chief marketing officer at Jenny Craig. My objective? Find new ways of growing the business in a hypercompetitive market.

Jenny Craig, a leader in the weight loss industry, is a household name and already has 93% brand awareness in the U.S. Given this, I knew that traditional campaigns weren’t going to cut it. If we wanted to drive significant growth, we needed to get smarter about communicating our brand story through digital.

While I was able to bring a CEO perspective to the CMO role (like tying marketing to broader business outcomes), I also got new insights into the challenges and opportunities that marketers face on a daily basis — insights I wish I’d had earlier. Here are three things I’ve learned so far in my tenure as CMO.

1. Cost of conversion is not your most important metric

Before I became the CMO, I was more focused on how we were spending our marketing budget than on how marketing could help drive long-term business objectives.

But thinking like this holds businesses back. Marketing should be valued for its long-term potential, rather than its short-term efficiencies.

For example, we know that people today are increasingly health conscious and use digital as their primary research tool. But making a lifestyle change doesn’t happen in a day, a week, or even a campaign cycle. If we want to be the brand consumers turn to when they’re ready to lose weight, we need to build and nurture those relationships well before they’re ready to convert.

Marketing should be valued for its long-term potential, rather than its short-term efficiencies.

So we partnered with Google and revised our approach to full-funnel marketing. Instead of focusing only on lower funnel digital initiatives to drive conversion, such as brand search, we optimized for digital across the whole consumer journey — from awareness all the way through sign up. By focusing long-term relationships instead of on short-term conversions, we’ve actually grown our appointment rate (conversions) by about 30%.

2. Marketing is critical in shaping the business — not just campaigns

Competition in our industry is hotter than ever. There’s a lot of information out there, and people are confused trying to figure out what to believe and what to do. At Jenny Craig, we saw this as an exciting opportunity to stand out from the crowd — to simplify our messaging and provide more relevant experiences.

We worked with Google to identify nuanced audience segments so we could deliver against the specific needs of individuals, rather than broad demographics. One segment we focused on was the “Modern Woman,” defined as someone who is interested not just in weight loss, but also in long-term nutritional health.

But this wasn’t just an opportunity to fine-tune our marketing or hone our segmentation. There were broader business implications as well. We uncovered a gap in the market for a whole new product, tailored specifically to this “Modern Woman,” an underserved but potentially high-value audience for us. This was the genesis for our Rapid Results program.

What started out as a marketing exercise has helped shape our product offerings and business model. Since the launch of the Rapid Results program, we’ve seen a 20% increase in new subscribers and company revenues are up 10%.  

3. Marketing technology isn’t solely the purview of the chief information officer

Automation and machine learning have become the backbone of our business and marketing strategies. Without them, we wouldn't be able to help as many people achieve their health and lifestyle goals. And we wouldn’t be able to drive long-term growth for our brand.

We’re excited about the potential to understand individuals more deeply, so we can be more strategic in how we communicate with them.

Automation helps us optimize our segmentation so we can reach more of the right people, and fewer of the wrong ones. We’re automating both brand and nonbrand initiatives, and using machine learning to understand unique customer needs so we can serve people with more relevant marketing. Our cost per acquisition went down 58% when we automated our bidding. Now we’re able to invest in more strategic initiatives, such as increasing customer lifetime value.

Thanks to machine learning, we’re also getting better at understanding what these high-value customers look like — then finding similar customers. Although we’re still early in this journey, we’re excited about the potential to understand individuals more deeply so we can be more strategic in how we communicate with them. Personalization is key – it isn’t one size fits all.

I’m excited about Jenny Craig’s mission to tackle the health challenges of our country head on. But I know these aren’t problems we’re going to solve overnight.

Here are the facts from a CEO wearing the CMO hat: We need to invest the time, energy, and resources in marketing so we can reach the right people at the right time with the right messaging. Only then will we be able to truly help people at scale and drive growth for our business.