LONDON (AdAge.com) -- McDonald's has named Steve Easterbrook, the outspoken president-CEO of McDonald's U.K. and Northern Europe, as its first exec VP-global chief brand officer. The new position encompasses marketing, menu innovation, consumer insights and global brand assets, as well as corporate social responsibility and restaurant design.
When Mr. Easterbrook, 43, took the top U.K. job in 2006, his first public move was to appear on BBC's "Newsnight" in a head-to-head TV debate with Erick Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation" and one of the industry's fiercest critics. He also set up a website, makeupyourownmind.co.uk, to encourage debate as well as to offer facts and figures about the company.
Last year, Mr. Easterbrook led a campaign to change the dictionary definition of "McJob," claiming that it was "insulting and out of date" to describe a McJob as an "unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects." In 2008, under his leadership, McDonald's was one of the first companies in the U.K. granted official permission to offer nationally recognized qualifications, equivalent to high-school diplomas and college degrees.
But he did more than shake things up. Mr. Easterbrook has been a successful president and CEO in the U.K. -- sales were up 10% in 2008 and 11% in 2009. In the past two years, 13,000 jobs have been created at McDonald's U.K. and another 5,000 were created this year, taking the total number of employees to 85,000.
He has turned the market's poor performance in the early '90s into almost uninterrupted growth since he took charge, led a transformation of the restaurant design, increased menu choice and improved the nutritional content of food in the region's restaurants. McDonald's was the first restaurant to offer free Wi-Fi in the U.K., and coffee sales went up 20% when Mr. Easterbrook introduced Rainforest Alliance coffee beans in 2008. He has also encouraged franchising, which he believes makes for better-run restaurants.
Mr. Easterbrook said in a statement: "McDonald's is among the most-recognized brands in the world, and that's an honor we embrace every day. Given our outstanding global performance, we have a tremendous opportunity to go even further in showing our customers what makes us unique as the leader in our industry."
After training as an accountant at Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), he joined McDonald's in 1994, working first in finance and then in operations. Mr. Easterbrook, a keen sportsman and triathlon enthusiast, is married with three daughters.
Mr. Easterbrook takes up the new position, reporting to President-Chief Operating Officer Don Thompson, on Sept. 1. Although his role is an expanded one, he effectively replaces Mary Dillon, who quit as global chief marketing officer in June to become president-CEO of U.S. Cellular.
"Steve has earned tremendous respect for his inspired leadership and his proven track record of driving the business in the U.K. and Northern Europe," Mr. Thompson said in a statement. "This strategic position will help us better serve and connect with our customers."
Jill McDonald, CMO of McDonald's U.K. and Northern Europe, replaces Mr. Easterbrook at CEO of the region.