Wendy's CMO Bahner To Step Down

Successor Solano Once Starred In Ads For Domino's

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Wendy's Chief Marketing Officer Craig Bahner is stepping down early next year as part of a management reshuffle -- and his replacement may look familiar.

Brandon Solano
Brandon Solano

Brandon Solano, senior VP-marketing, will succeed Mr. Bahner as CMO. Those in adland may recognize Mr. Solano from Domino's commercials where he was billed as a pizza chef. In fact, he was VP-innovation at the chain from 2008 to 2011, a time when Domino's overhauled its pizza and conceded that it tasted bad. What followed was a massive ad campaign touting its reformulated pizza, with ads featuring Mr. Solano.

Mr. Solano was named senior VP at Wendy's in July, but prior to that, he was VP-development at Domino's. He's also had various marketing roles at the Hershey Co. and Kellogg Co.

"Craig has been a tremendous partner and marketing leader for Wendy's over the past three years, and he has made important contributions to the Wendy's brand transformation. I wish him the best in his future endeavors," said Wendy's Chief Executive Emil Brolick in a statement. "I am also thrilled to welcome Brandon to the Senior Leadership Team. In his short tenure with Wendy's, he has already made an enormous positive impact on our brand and with our franchisees. His wealth of experience spans marketing, menu innovation, and restaurant development with leading restaurant and consumer goods brands, and I look forward to his leadership and partnership to grow the Wendy's brand in the future."

Craig Bahner
Craig Bahner

Mr. Bahner, a former Procter & Gamble exec, joined Wendy's in March 2012, filling a role that had been vacant since the prior june.

Other executive shuffles at the chain include the promotion of Brandon Rhoten, Wendy's first digital-centric executive, to VP-digital experience. Mr. Rhoten, one of Ad Age's top digital marketers this year, will take on a broader role with the company's realignment of investments into technology and customer engagement, according to the statement.

Wendy's has been marketing with an increased focus on digital content this year. In April, it launched a campaign for its Tuscan Chicken Sandwich that focused on asking consumers to help generate copy on social media. Recently it's been advertising its Bacon Portabella Melt and the Monterey Ranch Crispy Chicken sandwich.

For the last few years, Wendy's -- prior to Mr. Bahner's arrival -- has been focused on its "cut above" positioning, where it seeks to be perceived as a fast-food chain above the competition with a lower price point than fast-casual chains like Chipotle. The positioning was part of a turnaround effort that sought to find a voice for the brand after founder Dave Thomas passed away in the early 2000s.

In the third quarter, Wendy's posted a same-restaurant sales increase of 2.0% at company-operated stores over the same period in the prior year. Franchised same-restaurant sales in North America increased 0.5 % during the quarter. The company said in November that based on its year-to-date results, "current sales trends and projections, the company now expects full-year average same-restaurant sales growth of approximately 2.5% at company-operated restaurants."

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