Taco Bell Global Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg is leaving the restaurant chain after four years but plans to stay on in an advisory role with its parent company, Yum Brands Inc., as she decides what to do next.
Thalberg’s resignation was announced internally on Friday.
The news comes a day after Yum Brands reported continued strong results for the fast-food Mexican chain. Taco Bell’s same-store sales jumped 7 percent in the second quarter, continuing a streak of same-store sales growth in 17 of the last 18 quarters.
“Over the last four years, Marisa has helped lead record-breaking sales in a highly competitive category, all while transforming Taco Bell into a culture-centric lifestyle brand” Julie Masino, Taco Bell’s North American president, said in a statement. “Her instinct for cultural relevance led to legendary moments that included a partnership with Forever 21, T-Mobile and, of course, The Bell Hotel.”
Melissa Friebe, senior VP of marketing, and Tracee Larocca, senior VP, of advertising and brand engagement, will now oversee marketing and brand engagement for the brand and there are no plans to search for a chief marketing officer, the company said. Thalberg’s departure comes after Yum Brands announced in late July that Mark King, former president of Adidas Group North America, is joining as the CEO of the Taco Bell Division on Aug. 5.
Thalberg, who previously spent years in luxury cosmetics marketing, has been pushing Taco Bell to become more culturally relevant. Campaigns during her tenure included the collaboration with Forever 21 and last month’s T-MoBell pop-up shops with T-Mobile. The reservations available for this month’s limited-time Taco Bell-themed hotel in Palm Springs, California were said to have sold out in two minutes. Thalberg also oversaw a string of movie-trailer style ads for Nacho Fries, a limited-time item that became a huge hit for the chain.
Thalberg joined Taco Bell in 2015 as the chain's first chief brand engagement officer. In January 2016, she was promoted to chief marketing officer, filling the role left vacant by Chris Brandt. In January 2018, she was given the elevated title of global chief brand officer.
Prior to Taco Bell, Thalberg spent much of her career in the beauty industry, including eight years at Estee Lauder Companies Inc. She also founded Executive Moms, an organization for working mothers. Thalberg was an Ad Age Women to Watch honoree in 2012.