For 20 years, Jillian Michaels has inspired countless people to lose weight and lead healthier, fulfilling lives through a combination of high-energy workout routines, easy-to-follow diet plans and motivational speaking. But when “The Biggest Loser” aired in 2004, contestants on the popular reality show, along with millions of viewers at home, were instantly captivated by the charismatic personal trainer. Michaels’ fame catapulted, earning her recognition as one of the leading health and wellness experts in the country.

As a motivator and role model, Michaels has a unique connection with her audience that stems from her own personal journey toward wellness. She struggled with her weight when she was younger, and was determined to reach her goals. Through dedication and hard work, she did.

“What inspires me most is seeing everyday people overcoming extraordinary obstacles,” Michaels tells Retail Merchandiser. “When I see people who, against all odds, find the courage and the inner fortitude and determination to be brave and face their inner demons, it reminds me every day that I can do more, that I can be more and that I have more to give and more to overcome.”

Forming a Brand

In 2008, Michaels teamed up with her friend and business partner Giancarlo Chersich to form Empowered Media LLC, which acts as the licensing arm of the Jillian Michaels brand. Chersich has a long track record of successful brand development strategies in the fashion, sports, music and entertainment businesses. 

Based on a philosophy that stresses the integration of fitness, nutrition and behavioral changes, Empowered Media’s goal is to create total life solutions for people that involve all aspects of living well, including health, wellness, weight loss and overall lifestyle. 

“By using the trust she had generated with her viewers, we wanted to transcend Jillian’s capabilities across all forms of media, not just TV,” Chersich says. “We formed the company with the intent to inspire people to empower themselves by creating cost-effective life solutions and putting the information and power back into the hands of the consumer.”

“I think we share as individuals and as a company the same philosophy that health is a platform you build your life on,” Michaels adds. 

“When your health is solid, it transcends into every facet of your life,” she continues. “ We created blueprints and tools consumers need to build a new life – not just a mediocre life, but an exceptional life – a life where you have optimized your potential and continue to explore the limitless capabilities that are available to all of us once we realize our skill set and take deliberate action to achieve our goals.” 

Customized Solutions

Empowered Media has strategically selected lucrative endorsement deals, teamed up with the right business partners and invested in other successful, like-minded brands. But one of the main reasons why the company has grown and flourished so quickly is because Michaels and Chersich understand that it takes a variety of learning tools to effectively educate the masses. The company has released four New York Times bestsellers, three workout DVDs in-house and 11 through licensed agreements, and four fitness video games. It continues to broaden its reach in the marketplace through new technologies.

The Jillian Michaels 360° Weight Loss Navigator is an innovative new tool that takes the guesswork out of losing weight. The BodyMedia FIT Armband tabulates calories, steps taken, physical activity and sleep efficiency. Users can plug the device in online and sync it into a system that logs their daily food intake, creates customized meal and workout plans, and monitors their progress through a visual representation of their weight loss. Last but not least, they can receive personalized feedback from Michaels herself.  “It’s a two-way interface with me there personally to help you reach your goals and give you feedback on what you’ve accomplished,” she describes. 

“It benefits us as a brand because we now have the ability to personally touch millions of people and teach them to literally calculate their weight loss down to the ounce,” Michaels continues. “When they wear the device, we know their name, how often they’re working out and eating, and we can customize a program for them based on that information. On ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Bob [Harper] and I took 100 pounds off someone in 12 weeks. When we started experimenting with this technology, we were able to take 100 pounds of someone in six weeks because off the information it provided.”

The system provides unbiased information for the consumer, she explains. 

“You can take that information and make powerful choices with it that will create true change in your life,” Michaels says. “Before this technology, there was no way to tell if somebody had a metabolic issue, whereas if they wear their BodyMedia FIT armband and their calorie burn isn’t what I know it should be based on gender, age and weight, that’s a good indication for me to say, ‘You need to see your endocrinologist.’”

‘Finger on the Pulse’

Another attribute that sets Empowered Media apart is that it’s not afraid to take advantage of new opportunities provided by the Web. Michaels’ website, JillianMichaels.com, offers a comprehensive online wellness program with a fitness and diet plan that enables participants to track their results. It also serves as a portal to several communication tools that Michaels uses to interact with consumers, including a downloadable iPhone app, a podcast series and a personal blog. “We’re putting out solutions that are literally free to the consumer,” Michaels asserts.

Empowered Media’s mission is to provide customized weight loss solutions that bring a sense of value to the individual consumer, she explains. “If you don’t want to count calories, we work with a company called Freshology that puts out fresh, all-natural, calorie-controlled gourmet food plans through a national food delivery [service],” Michaels says. “If you don’t want to spend money on a sneaker, OK, we go to K-Swiss and come up with a high-performance shoe that’s half the price. We want to provide options to people on all cost levels in all types of venues.”

“The reason Jillian’s DVD business has been successful is because of the value it offers and how that value translates into success,” Chersich adds. “For $9.99, you can get a 30-day workout DVD plus a 30-day meal plan with a downloaded PDF with recipes attached. Think about the value you’re getting: Not only is Jillian going to be there through 30 days of working out, she’s also going to tell you what to eat and how to make it. It’s a total life solution. We’re giving you the tools you need to succeed from A to Z.”

In February, Empowered Media will launch Jillian Michaels Body Revolution, a 90-day home DVD system that includes 12 weeks of working out, complemented by a meal plan and bonus materials that allow participants to visualize their goals and monitor their progress. “The results have been phenomenal,” Chersich says. “One guy in our testimonial group lost 75 pounds in three months. What the system shows you is that you can achieve that kind of weight loss without Jillian physically being in the room with you. Everything is brought into the house so that people can achieve that same success at home.”

Empowered Media’s goal for 2012 is to “incubate new businesses that will flourish domestically and internationally, as well,” Chersich says. “We are embarking on a very aggressive rollout for the DVD business internationally. Currently, her titles are available in the U.K., Japan, Australia, New Zealand and some parts of Latin America and Europe. Our goal as a company is to make sure that our distribution reach for DVDs mirrors what our books do. Our books are published in 20-plus languages. 

“We want to make sure that when we release products in the U.S., they are released overseas at the same time,” he continues. “We believe that our international fans should be consuming the same material at the same time as the U.S. market is. Furthermore, we want to set up businesses that are supported by an advertising model so that it would be practically no cost to the consumer to consume the material. 

“We live in a world where today Facebook might be everything, but six months from now, it might be something else,” Chersich notes. “You have to have your finger on the pulse, but simultaneously, you have to be thinking 18 to 24 months out.”

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