Dunkin’ promotes the architect behind the next generation of CMOs


Diving Brief:

  • Dunkin’ has appointed Jill McVicar Nelson as chief marketing officer, overseeing functions including advertising, brand marketing, digital marketing and product innovation, by an announcement of parent company Inspire Brands.
  • The executive has been with the chain since 2011 and was one of the main architects of its five-year growth plan which included a major rebrand, a bigger push towards digital and revamped menus. On the latter front, Nelson has led efforts to appeal to younger consumers through the introduction of offerings such as cold brew with cold foam and avocado toast.
  • Nelson most recently served as vice president of marketing strategy, a role she assumed in 2020 as part of a broader reorganization of Dunkin’s marketing department. Dunkin’ is looking for marketing leadership after previously stepping out of the restaurant category for a CMO.

Overview of the dive:

Dunkin’ is making a safe bet promoting Nelson to CMO as the brand attempts to navigate an industry reshaped by the pandemic. The executive is a longtime veteran of the business and was instrumental in developing a growth plan that changed many aspects of how the business operates and markets itself. She will report directly to Dunkin President Scott Murphy.

Jill McVicar Nelson played a key role in designing Dunkin’s Blueprint for Growth plan.

Extract of Inspire brands September 22, 2022

The Master Plan for Growth, first implemented in 2017, finally seen Dunkin’ drop “Donuts” from his name in recognition of consumers turning more to menu items like coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Mobile and digital ordering capabilities, including restaurants designed specifically to accommodate these channels – were also part of the strategy and took on a new priority in the midst of COVID-19. Dunkin’ at the end of 2020 was acquired by Inspire Brands in another shift.

While Nelson has worked on a series of initiatives during his 11 years at Dunkin’, product innovation around frozen drinks and diverse food offerings received a special call in the announcement. The company positioned these moves as a way to attract the “next generation of guests,” explaining how Dunkin’ could prioritize efforts to reach Gen Zers who have a clear preference for cold brew and nibble. Other restaurant chains have made bigger openings to young people who are digital natives and who have seen their purchasing power increase.

“Jill’s in-depth knowledge of the Dunkin’ business and her understanding of product trends and consumer behaviors will help us continue to define the brand’s future growth strategy,” Murphy said in a statement.

Nelson has filled a vacant marketing manager role at Dunkin’ since March, when Rafael Acevedo left the company. Acevedo was recruited in June 2021 by The Coca-Cola Company after a two-year search. At the time, hiring an outsider indicated that Dunkin was adjusting his thinking on marketing as the economy reopened. Under Acevdeo’s brief tenure, the brand moved its creative agencies to Anomaly after several years with BBDO Worldwide.

The number of women leading the marketing of big brands also continues to grow. Female CMOs outnumbered their male counterparts for the first time last year, according to consultancy Spencer Stuart, although the average job tenure is still lower than the rest of the C-suite.


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