McDonald's Corp. is tapping a consumer marketing executive with a history in the homebuilding and automotive industries as its new chief marketer for the U.S.
Deborah Wahl, 51, joins McDonald's on March 3. She replaces Neil Golden, who announced last year he would retire in early 2014. Mr. Golden was chief marketing officer of McDonald's U.S. division since 2008.
Ms. Wahl will be responsible for developing and executing marketing strategies for the company's more than 15,000 U.S. restaurants and will work with independent owners as well as advertising agencies. She will report to Kevin Newell, exec VP and chief brand and strategy officer at McDonald's USA.
"This is an outstanding candidate and addition to our team," Mr. Newell said in an interview today. "She has done a lot of great things in terms of being a change agent. I was impressed with the way she worked with people in the building industry and auto industry."
Ms. Wahl comes to McDonald's from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based homebuilder Pulte Group, where she was CMO.
In a statement she said she "couldn't be more excited" to work with a brand as large as McDonald's. "It's an inspiring time for the industry and the brand and I look forward to what we will accomplish together."
She joins McDonald's at a challenging time, as the Oak Brook-based restaurant chain struggles to grow sales. Customers have shied away from McDonald's menu, forcing the company to aggressively promote lower-priced items on its Dollar Menu in an attempt to drive traffic.
"I'm looking for her to get us closer to our customers," Mr. Newell said. "We want to evolve with our consumers and we want them to help us evolve."
The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter and 2013 financial results tomorrow.
Ms. Wahl spent more than a decade working in the automotive industry before joining Pulte Group in 2009. She was CMO at Chrysler until her job was eliminated in a 2008 restructuring. She has also worked in marketing roles at Toyota Motor Sales USA, Mazda North America and Ford Motor Co.
She earned her bachelor's degree in economics from Wellesley College and her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Ms. Wahl also has a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Joseph H. Lauder Institute of International Studies.
Lorene Yue is a reporter for Crain's Chicago Business.