- KFC U.S. is getting a new CMO next month when Nick Chavez, senior vice president of sales, marketing and communications at Nintendo of America, joins the company, according to a press release from KFC Corp., a subsidiary of Yum Brands.
- Chavez, whose first day will be Nov. 29, will be charged with leading marketing, advertising, public relations, media, consumer insights and the brand's digital initiatives.
- KFC U.S. reported sales growth during its recent quarter, with digital sales so far this year surpassing full-year digital sales in 2020. Chavez will focus on developing innovative marketing strategies designed to help the brand continue to grow.
Chavez joins KFC U.S. in the wake of the departure earlier this year of Andrea Zahumensky, who had led the brand's marketing efforts since 2007 and played a key role in helping to modernize its image with sometimes quirky campaigns.
KFC naming an executive from Nintendo as its next CMO reflects the growing importance of gaming to consumer-facing brands across the CPG and QSR industries. In January, KFC introduced the KFConsole, a video game console with a built-in chamber for keeping chicken hot. This week, Chipotle showcased its focus on gaming with a Halloween-themed promotion on Roblox.
Chavez's experience in the gaming industry could presumably support a bigger push into gaming-related marketing for the KFC brand. The executive spent more than 11 years at Nintendo of America, where he headed up sales and marketing for the Nintendo Switch gaming system. Before that, he was at Yahoo.
"He has launched blockbuster new products at an iconic brand, and he's an expert in migrating retail brick-and-mortar business into e-commerce," said Kevin Hochman, president of KFC U.S., in a statement. "His experience will help us to deliver KFC's next chapter of growth."
In another example of the close connection between gaming and QSR, Activision Blizzard named Fernando Machado, who gained a reputation as an innovative marketer as the global CMO of Burger King's parent Restaurant Brands International, as its marketing leader several months ago.
The appointment of Chavez comes at a time of growth for the KFC brand but also of pressures more broadly on the restaurant industry as a result of the pandemic. This includes struggling with employee shortages and the need to evolve to meet the changing needs of consumers as they embrace digital ordering more heartily.
KFC U.S. saw same-store sales grow 4% in its most recent quarter and reported a 13% jump on a two-year basis. Drivers of sales include its chicken sandwich, group occasions and its digital channels.