Taco Bell Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg Steps Down

Company says it won't fill the CMO role she once held

Headshot of Marisa Thalberg
Thalberg will continue at Yum!, Taco Bell's parent company, as a strategic advisor.
Taco Bell/Yum! Brands

After four years with Taco Bell, global chief brand officer Marisa Thalberg is leaving the company.

Announced internally on Friday, Thalberg, who had a stint as the company’s chief marketing officer, followed up on LinkedIn, writing, “Having led Taco Bell to record-breaking sales (with a +7% for the quarter announced yesterday) and to pretty amazing heights of cultural excitement and relevance, I have been ready to take on a new challenge with even broader scope and opportunity for me, and it felt like now was the big moment to go for it.”

Riding the trend set by big brands like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Hyatt and Lyft, Taco Bell said it is not looking to fill the CMO role and did not offer why. With Thalberg stepping down, Melissa Friebe, svp of marketing, and Tracee Larocca, svp of advertising and brand engagement, will slide into CMO-esque roles. With a new sheriff in town—former president of Adidas North America Mark King started his role as CEO of Taco Bell today—change appears to be in the air.

Thalberg will continue at Yum!, Taco Bell’s parent company, as a strategic advisor over the next several months. This will be helpful for the brand, as she oversaw the fast-food chain’s branding and marketing, pushing it into some different territories over the last few years.

“Over the last four years, Marisa has helped lead record-breaking sales in a highly competitive category, all while transforming Taco Bell into a culture-centric lifestyle brand,” Julie Masino, Taco Bell’s North American president, said in a statement.

For example, on Thalberg’s watch, Taco Bell opened up a hotel and resort in Palm Springs, Calif.; introduced “the brand’s most successful product ever in Nacho Fries” and the campaign to go with it; and just last month, partnered with T-Mobile so that people coming in for phones could get free tacos.

Thalberg is also the founder of Executive Moms, a community that highlights mothers in the workplace. Prior to Taco Bell, she was a marketing exec at Estee Lauder and Unilever.

“I could not be more proud of what I and the team have accomplished, and could not love this brand, its franchisees, our partners and this team more,” she wrote on LinkedIn. “Having led this brand to become America’s fastest growing brand in the nation (second only to Netflix – per Variety) and America’s now #1 favorite Mexican restaurant (thanks Harris Poll), I’m excited for what’s next!”

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