Taco Bell Names Marketing Chief Brian Niccol President, Announces New CMO

Marketing Exec Chris Brandt Becomes CMO

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Taco Bell's Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Brian Niccol has been promoted to president of the chain. Chris Brandt, a Taco Bell marketing executive, is now the chain's chief marketing officer.

A Taco Bell spokesman confirmed the moves, and said that Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed will remain in his post. Mr. Brandt will lead brand marketing, media and brand sponsorships, consumer insights and digital marketing.

Chris Brandt, new Taco Bell CMO
Chris Brandt, new Taco Bell CMO

Mr. Brandt was previously the chain's VP-marketing. He joined Taco Bell in 2010 as senior director of marketing. He was promoted in 2012 and helped roll out the "Live mas" tagline. During his tenure, he's overseen marketing strategy, led the launch of Doritos Locos Tacos and developed the Cantina Bell menu. Prior to joining Taco Bell, Mr. Brandt was a VP-marketing for Odwalla, a Coca-Cola brand, and launched a number of products, including protein smoothies and relaunched Odwalla bars. Before Odwalla, he worked in various brand-management roles at General Mills for brands including Betty Crocker, Nature Valley Granola Bars and Yoplait.

Mr. Niccol, a veteran of parent company Yum Brands, became Taco Bell's CMO and innovation chief in late 2011, after serving as sister company Pizza Hut's general manager, and before that, its CMO. At Taco Bell, Mr. Niccol oversaw marketing as the chain launched its more upscale product line, the Cantina Menu, in addition to the Doritos Locos Taco, its biggest launch ever. During Mr. Niccol's tenure the chain has also seen a significant sales turnaround after a protracted decline. The spokesman said Mr. Niccol will continue to actively oversee marketing and food innovation, in addition to operations, technology and public affairs.

Brian Niccol
Brian Niccol

A statement from Taco Bell said Mr. Niccol was tapped as president as part of the chain's plan to double its revenue over the next 10 years, going from roughly $7 billion annually in sales to $14 billion. Part of that plan for growth includes what the chain said is a commitment to "a better Taco Bell," one that offers healthier food; the company for now has been relatively vague on the specifics of what food will be overhauled and what new products will come out.

The chain also recently announced that it will likely roll out a new national value menu, one that sticks to a dollar price point. It's also been rolling out breakfast -- its so-called First Meal -- on the West Coast, with a projected nationwide introduction in the first half of 2014.

For now, it appears that no agency changes are imminent. The spokesman also said that Taco Bell continues to work with its current agency roster including Interpublic's Deutsch, which debuted work with a 60-second Super Bowl spot, and sibling agency DraftFCB.

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