Passion: it's a word. But for Men's Health editor Dave Zinczenko, it's a word! That exclamation point represents passion—Dave's passion for his book, Eat This, Not That! Yesterday we heard the rumor that Dave, Julia Allison's old boyfriend, was looking for a new publicist to get him back on the Today show (he said no, only his magazine is hiring a publicist, not him). And we hinted at the existence of an internal email in which Zinczenko grandiosely compared his ab-centric book to "Barak [sic] Obama." Well now that email, from February, is in hand! "Who had a better last three weeks-Barak Obama, or Eat This, Not That? Crazy, audacious comparison, I know, but stay with me here." Okay, go:
From: Zinczenko, David Sent: Friday, February 08, 2008 4:55 PM To: Men's Health Editorial Subject: Read this (not that!) The thought occurred to me while I was watching the Super Tuesday returns to ask: Who had a better last three weeks-Barak Obama, or Eat This, Not That? Crazy, audacious comparison, I know, but stay with me here. Let's see: * Senator Obama was seen in a very positive light on national television. So was Eat This/Not That! * He saw his appeal grow among women and ... so did Eat This/Not That! * Senator Obama took on an entrenched political machine with ties to the fast food industry and made his mark ... so did Eat This/Not That! * And Senator Obama emerged with hopes of turning his strong showing into a kind of a Barak Brand that could influence us for years to come, and guess what-so did Eat This/Not That! And that's why I'm proud in joining him by saying, on behalf of the Men's Health team and my Rodale colleagues-Yes. We. Can ... Run a book straight out of the magazine brand and up the bestseller lists (even if not the New York Times bestseller list). Some quick background for all of you: . * As mentioned, we developed the brand first. Eat This Not That! has been a mini feature in the pages of Men's Health since the dawn of the millennium. Okay, that's only a handful of years, but still: We had the opportunity to develop it out, test it with readers, screw it up, revamp it, and hone it until it became one of our most popular features. And all of that honing did something else as well: It allowed us to ensure that Eat This Not That! was a strong contributor to Men's Health and its mission. * We built a publicity strategy in advance. Thanks to years of building relationships with the Today Show-a place that Men's Health was actually banned from before 2000, I think-we had a guaranteed outlet for the book. But more important, we had already built credibility with the program, having done weight-loss pieces with them for years. We didn't create a product and then try to sell it; we developed a reputation, and extended it in new and important ways. The Today Show wanted to work with us on it, because they believed in us, and knew that we had both the expertise on nutrition and the feel for what people needed and wanted. And that has made all the difference. * We also put together a team out of the MH brand that was passionate about the product, expert in the field, and well-versed in the strategy. — George Karabotsos came up with an innovative new design that might be even more iconic, in its own way, than the Zagat guides. —the creative team-among them my brilliant coauthor matt goulding and our researcher Lauren Murrow-found a ton of ways to improve and give more depth to all of the information we presented. —Paul Reader planned a media blitz with an irresistible hook-the fat/calorie reveal-and made ETNT an overnight staple on the Today show. As we predicted, the segments were the most popular things on the shows where they appeared; hence, more and more segments. They're watching their audience response, just like we did all those years. Our hit became their hit, which made our hit even bigger. And, most important of all, we didn't settle for first or second or even twentieth drafts. We refined and refined and refined some more. Since less than 1 percent of the book's content came from the magazine, Matt, George, Lauren, myself and others rethought everything. We dispensed with the standard dedication, and instead used that far-forward piece of text to engage the reader in the battle we had with the fast food companies to get the information our readers need to make healthy choices. And in so doing, Eat This, Not That! became not just information, it became a quest we share with everybody who buys the book. We went through 57 iterations of the cover. I counted them. We photographed french fries. We photographed cheese fries. We photographed our PR manager Allison Falkenberry posing like a diner waitress. And in the end, we chose the image you see here on the cover. Then we went through type treatment after type treatment, design after design, ripping it up and trying to improve it. Then we tried subline after subline, rewriting and rewriting, looking for the perfect language, until we hit upon "The no-diet weight-loss solution." And finally, when we were all done, Steve Perrine came in and said, "You're not done. You need to put an exclamation point after the title." So we ripped it up again, and Eat This, Not That became Eat This, Not That! And that's the sort of passion we brought to the project. That willingness to rethink, time and again, is what made it a sensation. And of course, none of it could have happened without all of Rodale rallying to make our dream a reality. The entire Rodale books group, among them Liz Perl, Bob Anderson, Chris Krogermeier, Nancy Hancock, Tara Long, Keith Biery, Anita Patterson, Howard Weill and Bill Seibert, Bill Ostroff, Paul McGinley and Cynthia Dobson and Andrew Gelman, the indefatigable Michael Bruno, Sandra Matthiesson, Bill Stump, Sean Nolan, and on and on-all pitched in the last several months, and continue to today, to ensure that this book's important message got out, in record time, to a country of people in desperate need of this information. Many of us operated as if lives were at stake, which of course, they are. Our undying thanks to all of you who have inspired this project in so many ways. And because of their efforts, we now have a hit franchise on our hands. So brace yourselves: We've already begun work on the sub-franchises and spinoffs that proceed logically from Eat This/Not That! The saying is true: success has had a thousand fathers, and mothers. So with all that fertile talent around, it should soon have 15 or 20 offspring: * EAT THIS, NOT THAT for kids * EAT THIS, NOT THAT for diabetics (Steve Murphy's brilliant idea) * EAT THIS, NOT THAT for business travelers (Steve Perrine's idea, and a perfect tie-in for Best Life) * COOK THIS, NOT THAT (Matt Goulding is in heaven over this one) * SAY THIS, NOT THAT (Peter Moore already has a list of ideas for 85 spreads) * WEAR THIS, NOT THAT * BUY THIS, NOT THAT * EARN THIS, NOT THAT But the big overall lesson to learn here is a simple one, and we've all heard it from Steve Murphy a hundred times now: it all starts with an idea, and idea that debuted back in March 2002, on page 48. And the idea is very much like the idea of Men's Health itself—it's clever, it's useful, it's catchy, it's definitive...what tons of useful stuff is all about.. And why was it a hit? Because it helped all of us make one of the most basic, and dangerous, decisions they make every day: Should I eat this, or that? (We make 200 food decisions every day, by the way. Chew on that.) If we're armed with the right information, those decisions can help us live better. And, going back to Mr. Murphy's rule, Eat this, Not That! has succeeded because, like Men's Health, it's an idea that is so big that it demands the attention of its target audience, that it creates its own web opportunities, its own publicity plan, its own circle of spinoffs, its own destiny. And I truly believe those kinds of ideas come out of a brand that is made up of dedicated believers who understand Men's Health's mission because they share it with their readers and web visitors and book buyers. We are they, and they are us. Eat This/Not That succeeds because the need came first, and the way to satisfy that need was brilliantly conceived. My trips through the drive-thru will never be the same, and for me and millions of other Americans, that's a very good thing. Now, if only I could get Will.I.am from the Black eyed peas to do a music video for the book—Kind of a "Yes We Can...avoid the aussie cheese fries"—we'd be right there. Thanks.