- Yum Brand's Taco Bell has named Nikki Lawson, former managing director for KFC SOPAC, as global chief brand officer, the company revealed in a press release. Lawson assumes her new duties in April.
- In her new position, Lawson will be tasked with leading the Taco Bell brand globally and will report to Taco Bell CEO Mark King.
- Lawson joins Taco Bell after almost two decades at Yum Brands' KFC. During her tenure at the chain, she served in various marketing leadership roles in different regions around the world.
Under former CMO Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell frequently aimed for marketing that positioned it as a lifestyle brand, often hitting the mark. A recent high point of this approach was Taco Bell's hotel, which saw reservations quickly sell out. In a statement about Lawson's appointment, King suggests that the chain will continue to push the brand past its traditional positioning.
"One of our biggest opportunities moving forward is positioning Taco Bell as the powerhouse global brand that it is, pushing us to continue to be a brand beyond QSR," said King in a statement.
By hiring a chief marketing executive whose resume includes work in Asia and Africa, the brand seems to also be hinting that global strategy may play a more significant role in its branding and marketing efforts. Lawson brings experience in marketing KFC in a variety of markets around the world.
Lawson's track record at KFC also includes building the brand's social media engagement and its corporate social responsibility practice, two areas of expertise that are increasingly important for big brands as younger consumers spend more time on social media and gravitate towards purpose-driven brands. KFC's marketing, lead by U.S. CMO Andrea Zahumensky, has been focused on lifestyle marketing in a vein similar to Taco bell's approach.
When Thalberg left Taco Bell last year, the company split her duties between Melissa Friebe, SVP of marketing, and Tracee Larocca, SVP of advertising and brand engagement. Her departure came during a particularly tumultuous period for brand marketing leaders, with a number of high profile departures driven, in part, by the need to find the right mix of skills as some legacy brands struggle with sluggish sales.
Yum Brands' Pizza Hut chain also named a new chief marketing officer and new chief brand officer this month after a shakeup to company leadership. Pizza Hut's prior chief brand officer, Marianne Radley, left suddenly in December.
Last month, Lowe's Companies hired Thalberg as EVP and chief brand and marketing officer.