Name: Jesse Johnson
New title: Vice president of marketing, Chili’s
Previous title: Director of growth, Wieden + Kennedy
Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s, appointed Johnson as Chili’s VP of Marketing, a newly created role, the company announced Tuesday. Johnson spent 14 years at Wieden + Kennedy, an independently owned Portland, Oregon based advertising agency, according to his LinkedIn profile. He held several roles at the company before eventually rising to the position of director of growth. While at Wieden + Kennedy, Johnson developed campaigns for major brands like Procter & Gamble, Nike Golf and KFC. Ad Age named Johnson account director of the year in 2018, the same year he led KFC’s “The Return of Colonel Sanders” campaign, which was named campaign of the year by the media brand.
Johnson’s experience will make him an asset as Chili’s looks become more commercially aggressive, Chili’s CMO George Felix said in the press release. Last summer, Chili’s hired Felix as CMO, and he previously worked at KFC as director of brand communications and later as director of marketing during the “The Return of Colonel Sanders” campaign.
Johnson joined Chili’s on Dec. 19, a Brinker spokesperson wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive. He is responsible for efforts to “develop and execute marketing strategies for Chili's Grill & Bar and bring the brand to life across multiple touchpoints, including advertising, media, PR and the Guest experience,” according to the press release.
Brinker has been working to strengthen Chili’s position within the casual dining segment, Brinker CEO Kevin Hochman said during the company’s most recent earnings call. That effort has included testing off-premise-only units and reductions in Chili’s rewards discounts, according the earnings call.