Pizza Hut recruits help from KFC, including a new CMO, after a weak 2019
Pizza Hut, the weakest member of Yum Brands Inc.’s restaurant portfolio, is getting some help from a team of KFC marketers who have helped boost results at the fried chicken chain.
The executive moves were announced Thursday as Pizza Hut posted a 1 percent decline in U.S. same-store sales for 2019 after a 2 percent increase in 2018. Pizza Hut’s U.S. same-store sales have now fallen in three of the last four years. And the fourth-quarter same-store sales were down 4 percent despite a heavy dose of NFL advertising.
“Pizza Hut U.S. continues to be a business in transition,” Yum Brands CEO David Gibbs said on the company’s quarterly conference call on Thursday.
Kevin Hochman, president of KFC U.S., is also now serving as interim president of Pizza Hut U.S. That role has been vacant since Artie Starrs was promoted to the role of Pizza Hut CEO in 2019.
Hochman has already brought in marketing reinforcements. George Felix, who was director of marketing for KFC Global, is now chief marketing officer for Pizza Hut U.S., overseeing marketing and public relations. And David Graves is now the chief brand officer at Pizza Hut U.S., where he’s responsible for culinary innovation, insights, quality assurance, food safety and overall brand health. He was previously director of marketing strategy and innovation at KFC.
Pizza Hut’s U.S. CMO role had been vacant since Zipporah Allen moved over to sibling chain Taco Bell last year, less than two years after getting the CMO post. And Pizza Hut’s chief brand officer position has been vacant since Marianne Radley left in late 2019, after her plans to reinvigorate the chain did not pay off.
Now, the nation’s second-largest pizza chain is hoping that the marketing team that reinvigorated KFC can work the same magic at Pizza Hut. At KFC, the marketers helped boost interest in the brand with campaigns including a rotating cast of celebrity colonels, as well as new products such as Nashville Hot chicken. KFC U.S. posted 1 percent same-store sales growth for the quarter and for all of 2019.
Prior to joining KFC, each of the three execs now working on Pizza Hut had worked at Procter & Gamble. Hochman joined KFC U.S. as its CMO in 2014 and was promoted to president in 2017. Felix joined KFC in 2015, followed by Graves in 2016.
Wieden & Kennedy won KFC’s business in 2015, months after Hochman joined as CMO. Hochman had worked with the agency on Old Spice.
Pizza Hut has cycled through six agencies in recent years. It hired GSD&M in 2018, after working with Droga5 from 2016 to 2018. Deutsch had the account from July 2014 until 2016. McGarryBowen's tenure ran from September 2013 until July 2014. The Martin Agency held the account from December 2009 until 2013. BBDO was Pizza Hut's creative agency from 1987 until 2009, holding on even as the account went up for grabs several times during that tenure.