Wendy's Hires Craig Bahner as CMO

Former P&G Exec Fills Spot Vacant Since June

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Craig Bahner
Craig Bahner

Wendy's , the new No. 2 burger chain, has named Craig Bahner, a 20-year Procter & Gamble veteran, its chief marketing officer, effective April 2.

Wendy's had been without a CMO since Ken Calwell resigned June 1 to become president of Papa Murphy's, a take-and-bake pizza chain. It's unknown what the news means for Wendy's agency, Kaplan Thaler Group, which has been working with the chain since 2009.

At P&G, Mr. Bahner most recently served as VP-North American Retail Hair -- a division that houses Pantene, Head & Shoulders and Herbal Essences.

The move comes a few months after CEO Emil Brolick, who joined Wendy's in September, announced ambitious turnaround plans, including a campaign to launch in April (ostensibly created by Kaplan Thaler).

Wendy's has struggled in recent years, particularly after the death of its founder Dave Thomas in 2002. The company cycled through a number of agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, which launched the infamous red-wig campaign aimed at young men -- not the chain's core demographic. Wendy's then went to Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners in 2008, followed by Kaplan Thaler.

In a conference call late last year, Mr. Brolick said that "Wendy's went through a difficult period and lost clarity of vision" for the brand. "One might say that it went through an identity crisis. In the past 18 months, important progress has been made to help stabilize this situation. Clarity of vision is obviously essential, and we have now identified a position in the marketplace that is unique to Wendy's , is defensible and is profitable. That position is called 'a cut above.' "

At the investor conference in January, Mr. Brolick pointed out that the "a cut above" strategy includes menu innovations, remodeled stores and the new marketing campaign, which will position Wendy's as a premium fast-food brand -- one that can compete with quick-serve restaurants or fast-casual chains.

Reversing some of its missteps, Wendy's has passed Burger King to become the No. 2 chain in the U.S., according to Technomic, a move that came after it split from Arby's .

In a statement on Mr. Bahner's hire, Mr. Brolick said : "We are very pleased to add Craig to our executive management team. ... He brings tremendous strategic management skills and a successful track record of exceptional business and marketing execution to our brand."

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