After more than 20 years in various roles with Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc., Greg Creed this year succeeded longtime CEO David Novak and took the reins at the parent of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, which combined have more than 40,000 locations worldwide.
Creed’s mark on Taco Bell Corp. has been sizable since being named CEO of that Yum subsidiary in February 2011. He oversaw the most notable new menu platform in a decade, the Doritos Locos Taco, in 2012. As of December, one billion Doritos Locos Tacos had been sold, the company said.
This past year, Creed launched a new breakfast menu at Taco Bell that was accompanied by a cheeky marketing campaign aimed squarely at McDonald’s, with TV spots featuring men named Ronald McDonald enjoying the new breakfast fare. The brand also debuted a new Dollar Cravings value menu with 11 items at 99 cents or less.
Taco Bell also launched the U.S. Taco Co. fast-casual concept in Huntington Beach, Calif., aimed at higher-income, food-savvy customers.
Creed’s knowledge of Yum’s business is deep. Before becoming CEO at Taco Bell, he served as chief concept officer from December 2006 to 2011. Before that, he spent a year as chief operating officer at Yum and four years as chief marketing officer of Taco Bell.
In 2001, he helped develop the “Think Outside the Bun” slogan, which the 6,000-plus-unit Taco Bell chain used for more than a decade. Later, as CEO, he led the introduction of the “Live Más” ad campaign.
Creed also oversaw marketing of KFC and Pizza Hut business in his native Australia and served as chief marketing officer for Yum! Restaurants International from 1994 to 2001.
Changes in how restaurants earn attention in the social-media age mean marketing in its traditional sense no longer works in the competitive industry, Creed said in a speech at the People Report Summer Brand Camp conference last June. In its place, he said, brands are becoming “publishers” and telling their own stories.
“We’ve definitely changed the way we market to our customers,” he said in August in an interview with Don Fox for NRN’s 2014 Golden Chain awards. “I think we were a very early adopter of the mobile, social, digital world and I think we’ve done an amazing job … of really connecting with our Millennials. We’ve been on the cutting edge of customer engagement, and sometimes for a big brand that’s not easy.”
Before joining Yum, Creed served 15 years in key senior management positions in sales and marketing at Unilever and Lever Bros., where he said he learned valuable lessons, such as never letting enthusiasm for a product get in the way of the economics, or what he called “the underlying math.”
“I used it when we launched the Doritos Locos Taco,” Creed said. “I was just maniacal about understanding how much had been made, how much was in the warehouses, how much was shipping and how much was going out in consumer demand.”
Creed has often said he is focused on enhancing the team-member experience. “We can have the greatest marketing in the world, but why would we expect our team members to treat our customers any better than we treat them?” he asked.
Creed said in his new role he wants to fill the company with people who are smart, have huge hearts and have the courage to make big decisions. His fresh thinking will no doubt bring many changes to Yum in 2015.