KFC’s US marketing chief, who helped modernize brand with off-the-wall creative, departs

  • KFC’s U.S. CMO Andrea Zahumensky left the brand Thursday, a company spokesperson confirmed to Marketing Dive. Ad Age first reported the news.
  • “Andrea has played a critical role in elevating KFC’s brand with industry-leading innovation and marketing activations, which have contributed to profitable same store sales growth and helped build KFC into a more modern and relevant brand,” the spokesperson said in a statement over email.
  • Zahumensky is the second CMO departure to hit a Yum Brands chain this month. Pizza Hut’s George Felix recently exited the brand to take on the top marketing job at Tinder.

With the departure of Zahumensky, KFC is losing a U.S. marketing chief who managed to further the brand’s creative positioning around edgy, off-the-wall humor while also extending an impressive run of same-store sales growth — a critical measure of health in the restaurant category. KFC is actively searching for her replacement, the spokesperson said.

Previously a veteran of Procter & Gamble, Zahumensky joined KFC in late 2017 as the fried chicken chain was building out a brand strategy that put the spotlight back on mascot and founder Colonel Harland Sanders. Notable campaigns involving the icon in recent years included a Lifetime original mini-movie with Mario Lopez in the starring role and a dating simulator done in the anime style.

“Ultimately, my job as CMO is to deliver what we call ‘brand over time and sales overnight,'” Zahumensky previously told Marketing Dive. “All of my work that I’m doing ultimately needs to deliver that. That goes everywhere from innovation that brings in new customers as well as pleases our core customers, all the way to brand and culture.”

Beyond leading far-fetched creative plays that courted both controversy and accolades, Zahumensky also promoted product innovation. KFC has landed in the center of the chicken sandwich wars that continue to dominate the fast-food category, with heavy hitters like McDonald’s and KFC’s fellow Yum brand Taco Bell recently jumping into the fray. KFC introduced a revamped version of its own chicken sandwich offering in January.

Zahumensky leaving KFC marks another adjustment for Yum’s marketing leadership. The departure of George Felix from Pizza Hut earlier in April was accompanied by a realignment of the brand’s marketing team. Lindsay Morgan, previously director of brand communications, is now acting as CMO, while David Graves has taken on the chief brand officer role. Graves and Felix moved from KFC to Pizza Hut in 2020 in a possible bid to translate some of KFC’s marketing mojo to the pizza purveyor.

More broadly, Yum is ramping up its internal technology capabilities to help its restaurants weather disruptions related to the pandemic and shifting digital media needs. The company recently made two acquisitions: the artificial intelligence business of performance marketing firm Kvantum — a deal intended to fast-track its data-driven strategy — and the conversational commerce developer Tictuk Technologies.