Jason Marker Named CMO Of KFC USA

KFC has named Jason Marker chief marketing officer of the chain's system of more than 5,000 U.S. restaurants.

He succeeds Barry Westrum, who "left the company to pursue broader innovation opportunities," KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said.

Marker most recently held the post of vice president of global branding for KFC. Prior to that he served as chief marketing officer of KFC and Pizza Hut in Australia and New Zealand for eight years.

Marker's appointment as CMO of KFC USA marks Yum Brands Inc.'s latest internal attempt to achieve marketing continuity and sales improvement among its KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands in the United States.

Last month, Brian Niccol was named chief marketing and innovation officer at Taco Bell. Niccol previously served as general manager and chief marketing officer of Pizza Hut.

As the new chief marketing officer at KFC USA, Marker will need to find a message that turns around disappointing sales from 2010 and 2011. While same-store sales for KFC in the United States rose 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 and first quarter of this year, they decreased 5 percent and 3 percent in the second and third quarters, respectively.

The last two same-store-sales decreases lapped declines of 7 percent and 8 percent in the second and third quarters of 2010, respectively.

While KFC commercials tended to emphasize affordability during the recession of 2008 and 2009, they have focused on food quality for much of 2011. KFC relaunched its Kentucky Grilled Chicken item, putting its cooks in front of the camera to promote that the item contains 20 percent more breast meat. They also spread awareness of the brand's cook certification program. Price was not mentioned in those spots. A similar ad push for the brand's Popcorn Chicken pitched the item as a higher-quality alternative to chicken nuggets.

The chain's latest marketing effort for the Cheesy Bacon Bowl touts the $3.99 price point in commercials, but the spots focus mainly on the item's ingredients, an upgrade to the Famous Bowl that was popular for KFC five years ago.

Louisville, Ky.-based Yum operates or franchises more than 38,000 restaurants in 117 countries under the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN