KFC has named Jason Marker its CMO in the U.S., replacing Barry Westrum.
A spokesman confirmed the move, saying Mr. Marker started in his new role last week, and that Mr. Westrum left the company "to pursue broader innovation opportunities."
Mr. Marker comes to the U.S. CMO post after an 18-month stint as VP-global branding for KFC. He previously spent eight years in various marketing roles at parent company Yum Brands, including CMO of KFC and Pizza Hut, in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr. Westrum took the marketing helm in February at KFC, replacing John Cywinski, who was promoted to president of the Yum Brands chain. Prior to KFC, Mr. Westrum was CMO at A&W and Long John Silver's, which parent company Yum sold off this year.
The Yum Brands family has seen other CMO movement lately. Last month Brian Niccol was named Taco Bell's chief marketing and innovation officer less than two months after David Ovens left the post and returned to Australia with his family. Mr. Niccol is also a Yum veteran, having served as Pizza Hut's general manager before moving to Taco Bell's top marketer position.
As part of its marketing so far this year, KFC relaunched Kentucky Grilled Chicken, a product it first introduced in 2009. The campaign was created by the chain's lead agency, DraftFCB, which also works with sibling chain Taco Bell. KFC's media agency is WPP-owned MEC.
As for what Mr. Marker's appointment means for the agencies, a KFC spokesman said the news "has no impact on the brand's existing agency partnerships."
KFC, and Yum in general, have been struggling on the U.S. sales front. Yum's U.S. same-store sales declined 3% in the third quarter, including declines of 2% at Taco Bell, 3% at Pizza Hut, and 3% at KFC, though the company's international business is experiencing significant growth. In the China Division alone, same-store sales were up 19% at both KFC and Pizza Hut.
Last year, KFC, the ninth-largest chain in the U.S. by sales, had a 3.9% drop in sales, and 2.1% dip in the number of locations to 5,055 stores, according to Technomic. KFC is the category leader by a wide margin with 29% share, but it still lost 1.4 share points in 2010. In the same category, Chick-fil-A grew 11.4% in sales, gaining two share points to 22 %. Popeyes, the No. 3 player, posted a 2.5% gain in sales and eked out an additional two-tenths of a point of share to 10.1%.
Yum Brands in the first half of this year has spent $114.1 million on U.S. measured media spending for KFC, according to Kantar. Last year it spent $205.6 million, down from $234.3 million in 2009.
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