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Taco Bell Elevates Brand Marketing Veteran Marisa Thalberg to CMO

She succeeds Chris Brandt, who is leaving the company

Marisa Thalberg is the restaurant chain's new marketing chief. Taco Bell

Taco Bell has named Marisa Thalberg to lead the brand's marketing following the resignation of Chris Brandt. The latter had served as chief brand and concept officer at the taco slinger, a unit of Yum Brands. The company said he left to pursue other opportunities.

Now, Thalberg assumes the CMO mantle, elevated from the chief brand engagement officer post she's held since joining Taco Bell last May. Previously, she spent eight years helming digital and content marketing at Estee Lauder. She has also held senior positions at Revlon and Unilever. Thalberg began her career in account service at agencies such as JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi.

"With Chris' departure, we are fortunate to have proven leadership in place to continue our great momentum," said Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol in a statement. "I'm confident that Marisa's deep brand experience and unique background will allow us to continue our position as a brand [that] people passionately trust and champion."

In addition, Niccol praised Brandt's contributions to Taco Bell's four consecutive years of same-store sales growth. The exec had become known for innovations such as Doritos Locos Tacos, mobile ordering and breakfast menus.

Taco Bell made news just last week, announcing a return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2013 with a 30-second spot in the first quarter of the Feb. 7 game. The chain promised one of its "biggest product launches to date," but revealed no details. (The cheeky press release was redacted to the point of absurdity.)

Taco Bell spent almost $360 million in 2014 on U.S. ads alone, per Kantar Media. Spending for the first three quarters of 2015 totaled $267 million, down slightly year over year.

The Los Angeles office of Interpublic's Deutsch serves as the brand's lead creative agency. Spark, a unit of Publicis Groupe's SMG, handles media chores.

This marks the second major CMO-level change at Yum in recent months. Last November, David Timm filled Pizza Hut's vacant U.S. chief marketer post. Previously, he oversaw marketing for the company's KFC operations in the U.K.

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