Burger King CMO departs after less than two years

Ellie Doty is leaving Burger King after less than two years as CMO, during which time she launched the chain’s US loyalty scheme and headed up the company’s first brand overhaul in 20 years.

BurgerKingBurger King CMO Ellie Doty is departing after less than two years, having joined the fast-food chain in June 2020 to head up all marketing activities across the US and Canada.

Reporting directly to the president of Burger King North America, Doty had responsibility for $400m of spend across digital marketing, food innovation, culinary, category strategy, media, insights, analytics and communications. Under her watch the business focused on shifting to an “insight-led mentality”, focused on “fewer, bigger, bolder actions to drive long-term outcomes”.

Doty worked on the brand overhaul in January 2021, which saw Burger King rebrand for the first time in 20 years with a revamped logo, packaging and uniforms. She headed up the launch of the chain’s first US loyalty scheme Royal Perks in September. Around 80% of the brand’s digital customers have since signed up.

During her tenure at the fast-food chain, Doty also took on an interim co-presidency role, which focused on “clarifying brand priorities” and the direction for the business over the next five years.

Doty joined Burger King from her role as CMO at US fast-food chain Chili’s, where she oversaw the marketing function including digital, media and innovation.

Burger King sharpens focus on digital for ‘sustainable growth’

Prior to that she served in multiple roles across the KFC business in the US and Canada, including as CMO, and as a senior brand manager at Taco Bell.

In a post announcing her departure from Burger King, the outgoing CMO said she was glad to have joined the business in 2020 during the pandemic: “Were there hard times? Yes. Plus exponential growth. Plus amazingly talented people. Plus franchisees with so much heart. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Change had occurred in the senior marketing team prior to Doty’s appointment. In January 2020 global CMO Fernando Machado added responsibility for the Popeyes and Tim Hortons brands to his role upon assuming the top marketing job at parent company Restaurant Brands International.

He then left the group in April 2021 to become CMO at games publisher Activision Blizzard.

From a strategic perspective, Burger King also opted for a change of direction in late 2021, focused on ramping up its digital offering. This includes, for example, axing paper coupon promotions to build sales through digital platforms and providing customers with more personalised offers in a bid to maximise “media firepower”.

Speaking in October, Restaurant Brands International CEO José Cil explained the team was working on a plan to reclaim market share and get the Burger King brand on track for long-term sustainable growth.

Cil outlined how the brand intended to make its marketing communications and media planning in the US more “thoughtful” and “consistent”, in order to better communicate its value proposition.

“For years, we’ve been spreading ourselves too thin across too many messages with mixed results. In fact, historically, we’ve consistently had the most value constructs in the market – three times as many as our lead competitors – which diluted our marketing firepower, and added to operational complexity,” he said.

The RBI CEO explained that work conducted by new Burger King US and Canada president Tom Curtis showed the business had a great brand and assets to build from, but there was need to “double down on putting the guest experience at the centre” of all operations.