Tinder poaches Pizza Hut's CMO George Felix
George Felix, who helped kickstart Pizza Hut’s recovery after working on hit campaigns for KFC and Old Spice, is Tinder’s new chief marketing officer.
The dating app hopes Felix’s marketing expertise will help it deepen its connections with Gen Z users. Tinder had been without a CMO since Jenny Campbell left in November to join Kate Spade in the same role. Felix left his role as CMO of Pizza Hut U.S. as of April 1.
“The opportunity to work on a brand as culturally relevant as Tinder is what drew me to this opportunity,” Felix said in a statement. “The possibilities for Tinder as a global brand are endless. I’m thrilled to be joining during a time when a new generation is emerging to redefine relationships and the ways they want to meet new people.”Tinder’s revenue rose 18% last year, as record days of swiping—Tinder users swipe right if they like prospective matches, or swipe left to pass—built up as the coronavirus pandemic progressed.
Tinder had its busiest year to date in 2020 and, according to the brand, nearly half of its users had a video chat with a match during the pandemic. After all, with people following protocols to stay home, they were less likely to meet up in person. Tinder set a record-breaking day of swipe activity on March 29, 2020, breaking 3 billion swipes in a single day, then proceeded to see that record broken 130 times, it reported.
There were 19% more messages sent per day in February 2021 versus a year earlier. And conversations during the pandemic have been 32% longer, according to the brand.
Now, Tinder will turn to Felix to help it better engage with Gen Z users, the oldest of whom are in their early 20s.
Felix was one of the marketers plucked from KFC at the beginning of 2020 to help boost the prospects at its Yum Brands Inc. sibling chain Pizza Hut. He joined soon after Pizza Hut’s U.S. same-store sales fell 1% in 2019. In 2020, such sales rose 3%, buoyed by the rise in at-home dining during the pandemic.
During Felix’s tenure, Pizza Hut gained some buzz with marketing, including a Gravity Blanket that looks like a pizza, which quickly sold out. Earlier this year, actor Craig Robinson began appearing in ads promoting its $10 Tastemaker pizza. Pizza Hut has been leaning into nostalgia for the brand, including through its Tastemaker box, which uses AR to turn into a Pac-Man game.
At KFC, Felix worked on U.S. campaigns centered around Colonel Sanders and was then director of marketing for KFC global. He was named Ad Age's brand marketer of the year in 2018. While at Procter & Gamble, Felix led the company’s mobile marketing strategy and innovation after working on the hit “Smell Like a Man” campaign for Old Spice.
“It is rare to find a marketing leader who not only delivers iconic brand positioning and outstanding results, but continually does so in new ways with very different brands,” Tinder CEO Jim Lanzone said in a statement. “George has been uniquely successful at every stop of his career, always finding innovative ways to break through, while establishing brand positioning that far outlasts his tenure.”
Lanzone also pointed to his new CMO’s “humility and people-centered leadership style.”
“George has a track record of building inclusive environments for his teams, and is passionate about how his organizations can drive social impact, all of which make him a great fit for Tinder,” said Lanzone.
Tinder, which got its start in 2012, is now available in 190 countries and more than 40 languages, and bills itself as the highest-grossing non-gaming app in the world. The Tinder app has been downloaded more than 430 million times and led to more than 60 billion matches, according to the company.
Over at Pizza Hut, Chief Brand Officer David Graves was given the expanded role of general manager, with responsibility across marketing, overseeing brand management, advertising, innovation, culinary, and customer experience. Graves reports to Kevin Hochman, who remains interim president. And reporting into Graves are Chief Brand Officer Georgeanne Erickson and Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Morgan. Previously, Erickson was director of brand marketing and Morgan was director of brand communications.
“We wish George the very best and are grateful for his thoughtful leadership throughout an unprecedented year, and one in which the brand saw remarkable growth,” Pizza Hut said in a statement released earlier this month.
Felix’s departure from Pizza Hut was previously reported by Restaurant Business magazine.