- Pizza Hut, the pizza chain owned by Yum Brands, has named a new chief marketing officer and new chief brand officer amid a broader shakeup to company leadership. Kevin Hochman, president of sister brand KFC U.S., is also joining as interim president, Yum Brands announced in its Q4 earnings report.
- Two KFC marketers will help fill out Pizza Hut's leadership team: George Felix, KFC global marketing director, will act as Pizza Hut's CMO and David Graves, KFC's director of marketing strategy and innovation, will step up as chief brand officer, Ad Age reported.
- Pizza Hut's prior chief brand officer, Marianne Radley, suddenly parted ways with the company in December, with no reason given for her departure. The company has not had a CMO since Zipporah Allen made the switch to Taco Bell last year, per Ad Age.
With the latest leadership shakeup, Pizza Hut looks to capture some of the marketing magic that has made KFC a stand out in the crowded QSR category. The news is the latest indication that embattled legacy marketers are turning again to brand-building to capture consumer attention and spark a turnaround in their businesses.
Pizza Hut has remained the underdog of the Yum Brands family, trailing KFC and Taco Bell despite retro-minded rebranding efforts, new menu innovations and a pricey partnership as the official pizza sponsor of the NFL that was forged two years ago after controversy-laden Papa John's was cut by the football league. Pizza Hut reported this week that Q4 same-store sales, a key metric for restaurant business health, slid 4% in the U.S. and 2% overall, weighing on Yum Brands' financial performance.
"Pizza Hut U.S. continues to be a business in transition. And for the last three years, we've made improvements in food quality, speed of service, our loyalty program and upgrading our technology for online ordering and delivery," David Gibbs, CEO of Yum Brands, told analysts on a call discussing Q4 results. "However, significant opportunity remains in three years."
Historically focused on the dine-in experience, Pizza Hut was sluggish to adopt many of the digital and mobile tools that have become must-haves for QSR brands. Rivals, namely Domino's, helped popularize the type of online and app offerings that are now standard in the industry and increasingly essential for capitalizing on consumer interest in online delivery and pick-up.
However, technological innovation alone isn't enough for QSRs to standout in a competitive field. KFC's brand has only become stronger since the reintroduction of its mascot, Colonel Sanders, in 2015. The fried chicken chain has leveraged a mix of celebrity ambassadors playing Sanders and absurdist humor to differentiate its marketing from rivals, a strategy that has supported business growth.
KFC CMO Andrea Zahumensky previously described her strategy to Marketing Dive as building "brand over time and sales overnight." It's an approach that Yum Brands appears to be trying to translate to Pizza Hut, including through the appointment of interim president Hochman, who previously helped spearhead KFC's turnaround in the U.S.