Taco Bell Corp. has named KFC veteran Kip Knight as its new chief marketing manager, succeeding Vada Hill, who was responsible for making the Irvine chain's talking Chihuahua a fast-food icon. Knight will assume his new duties July 6, the company said Tuesday.
Knight, 43, is currently a vice president of marketing for Tricon Restaurants International, parent company for Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut. He had most recently been responsible for the marketing of international KFCs and is credited with the 1994 launch of the Family Feast, which became one of the company's most profitable lines.
Knight joined KFC in 1990, holding several leadership positions with KFC International, including heading up marketing in the United Kingdom, which has served as the springboard for the company's expansion in Europe.
"During that time, he has built an excellent track record of success in the different KFC businesses," said Peter Waller, chief concept officer for Taco Bell.
Knight will have big shoes to fill in succeeding Hill, who was appointed chief marketing officer of Taco Bell in 1997, the same year the popular pup rejuvenated faltering sales after mouthing the words "Yo quiero Taco Bell" in a television commercial.
Hill resigned to become chief marketing officer of Fannie Mae, a government-chartered company that buys home loans in the secondary market. He has declined to be interviewed.
Knight begins his new job at a time when rival Del Taco, a Laguna Hills-based chain with 340 stores in 10 states, has hired a new ad agency and plans to launch a major advertising campaign this month.
Taco Bell is continuing to use the services of the Los Angeles agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, which is credited along with Hill with reviving Taco Bell's advertising in the highly competitive fast-food world.
Knight was not available for comment Tuesday. Before joining Tricon in 1990, he worked at Procter & Gamble for 10 years.