CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Burger King has tapped Natalia Franco as exec VP-global CMO. Ms. Franco was previously global VP-marketing and innovation at Coca-Cola Co., where she was charged with supervision of the brand's division that serviced BK rival McDonald's. She will report directly to CEO John Chidsey and enter her new role May 17.
The appointment caps a protracted absence of a top marketer at the prestige brand, known for its edgy, male-centric marketing. Predecessor Russ Klein took a leave of absence last September, and the company confirmed his departure in November. Burger King's North American CMO, Mike Kappitt, will report to Ms. Franco.
"Natalia is a seasoned marketing professional with a wealth of consumer-marketing experience and we are fortunate to have her join our team," Mr. Chidsey said in a statement. "Her global perspective and diverse background working for a number of well-known and world-class companies positions her well to help strategically drive the Burger King brand forward."
The Harvard-educated Ms. Franco, who also earned degrees in Spain and Colombia, has worked for top marketers including Unilever, General Mills and Coke in a career that spans 27 years. Her appointment seems a shrewd choice for a marketer seeking to improve relations with women and ethnic minorities, and one that is determined to spread its international footprint.
Franchisees interviewed for this story said the system hadn't received notification of her hire, but expressed relief that the position has been filled, and happiness that the new chief has experience working with McDonald's.
"The Burger King system is a highly dynamic and well-regarded brand and I am delighted to be joining this team," Ms. Franco said in a statement. "I am confident that my past professional experiences and my consumer-centric marketing approach will further enhance the brand's perception and awareness and help drive increased guest visits to our restaurants and profitable sales around the world."
Prior to arriving at Coke, Ms. Franco spent 11 years at General Mills. That began with four years at Pillsbury, according to LinkedIn, which was incorporated into General Mills during her tenure. She eventually served as U.S. marketing director of Totino's, held various U.S. marketing roles with Pillsbury's sweet baked goods, and finally as U.S. VP-cereal, strategic growth channels.
Ms. Franco began her career at Unilever, holding a variety of marketing positions in Panama and Colombia over the course of a decade.