Get To Know: Taco Bell CMO Chris Brandt
As Chief Marketing Officer for one of America’s most popular quick service restaurants, Chris Brandt heads up Taco Bell’s brand marketing, media and brand sponsorships, consumer insights, brand experience, and digital marketing.
During his three years with the brand, Brandt has overseen marketing strategy for ongoing and new platforms, leading the launch of Doritos Locos Tacos, and developing the Cantina Bell menu.
Brandt started as Taco Bell’s senior director of marketing in 2010. Two years later, he was promoted to vice president of marketing, helping bring to life the brand’s “Live Más” campaign. Brandt was named CMO last year.
Prior to his roles at Taco Bell, Brandt served as VP of marketing for Odwalla, a Coca Cola brand. He launched the company’s protein smoothies, new super foods, and re-launched Odwalla bars. He also played a leading role in the health and wellness company’s strategic decisions and nationwide expansion.
Before Odwalla, Brandt spent eight years working on a variety of brand management assignments at General Mills, including Betty Crocker, Foodservice, Big G Cereals, Nature Valley Granola Bars, and Yoplait. Throughout these roles, he focused on brand growth, increasing market share, developing effective advertising and merchandising programs, and launching new product platforms.
Brandt graduated with honors from UC San Diego, earning his BA in Economics. He received his MBA with honors from the Anderson School at UCLA. Brandt lives in Southern California with his wife and two sons.
CMO @ Taco Bell
- HQ: Irvine, CA
- Apple or Android? Apple
- First Job: Making cotton candy
- Favorite Band: U2
- Hobby: Soccer, skiing & golf
- First Car: Toyota truck
What mobile device can you not live without?
Can we take a peek at your phone’s home screen?
Which apps do you use most often for work?
SportsCenter. (Is my boss reading this?) Oh, FOR work? I use more news apps than anything else.
Also, I use our brand new Taco Bell app that we are currently testing with a rollout scheduled for later this year. It will really be something special.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
ESPNSoccernet – I am an avid soccer fan and it has all the latest info. I also like Bleacher Report and the SportsCenter apps to keep me up to date on the latest sports news, events and scores no matter where I am.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Take me through your typical workday.
One of the best parts of my job is that no day is the same.
As a brand that seeks to be first, it is fun to try and innovate on products, creative, process, media channels, etc. It makes every day really busy, but also really enjoyable.
The best part is the people. It may sound a little cliché, but Taco Bell has a really positive, energizing, get-it-done culture that can be exhausting at times, but makes it a fun place to work.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
Launching Breakfast at Taco Bell. Taco Bell has been working on Breakfast for more than eight years, so to come to market with the right products, the right positioning, and the right plan has been amazing.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
I travel a fair amount to a variety of business meetings and store visits – maybe 30-40k miles a year.
The most interesting place I ever visited was Istanbul. It’s an amazing city that is such an interesting blend of Eastern and Western culture.
What work challenges keep you up at night?
Making Taco Bell more than just a food brand; making it a lifestyle brand. Continuing to be a brand of firsts that innovates and engages with our consumers to build sales overnight, and the brand over time. The fragmentation of media and how to allocate our dollars to engage consumers with the right message at the right time on the right platform.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
I wish we could have rolled out the Live Mas campaign a little sooner as it really connected with consumers; although, launching it with Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco was really a great way to signal change for Taco Bell.
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
Beth Brady and Maria Morgan, during my tenure at General Mills, really empowered me to make decisions and to impact the business. They are both outstanding marketers with great intuition, and they were exceptional at providing support, but also letting me initiate my own ideas that instilled confidence in myself.
I would also have to say that my current boss, Brian Niccol, is another great marketer who does a nice job of encouraging and partnering with me to help bring Live Mas to life across all aspects of the business.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Flexibility, creativity, leadership and decisiveness.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
I am a part owner of the world famous English soccer Team Manchester United – I have exactly one share of stock! Amazingly, despite this ownership, they do not consult me on player moves.
Why did you go into marketing?
I started my career in banking and corporate finance, but really wanted to work on a product that was tangible. I explored brand marketing when I attended business school at UCLA, and then went to General Mills from there.
I have loved marketing ever since!
What other career would you like to try and why?
I think real estate development, particularly on the high end, would be interesting as you get to create something from just dirt that can create such a great experience for people.
Being the General Manager of a major sports team would also be fun to explore as you manage a high profile brand that is truly a part of the fabric of people’s lives.
What does your desk look like?
My desk always looks like a bit of a mess – I like to keep things I’m currently working on in small piles to keep them top of mind.
My sentimental items include the things my kids have made. One of my favorites is a fable one of my sons wrote when he was in 5th grade, which concludes with, “You can’t succeed if you don’t take risks.”
I love that.
What’s the last business book you read?
GROW by Jim Stengel was a very insightful about how brands use ideals to position themselves for growth. I also love Malcolm Gladwell’s books Blink and David and Goliath. They were fun and informative reads that really make you think differently.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
I loved the Cadillac spot about Americans and how hard work leads to rewards. I thought it really positioned Cadillac as a strong, aspirational, truly American brand. It also made me proud to be American. Very cool.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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