As it seeks to “connect to a new generation,” Pizza Hut has installed two new leaders in high-level marketing positions, including Kalen Thornton, who will join the company as global chief brand officer, and Melissa Friebe, who has taken the reins as chief marketing officer for the U.S. 

Thornton will join the company on June 10 and report to Pizza Hut Division Chief Executive Officer Aaron Powell. Thornton will lead Pizza Hut’s global brand strategy and oversee all aspects of marketing across 110 markets and territories. He will be responsible for guiding the brand to a new chapter of relevance, engaging customer connections across physical and digital touchpoints and ensuring that the brand maintains its status as a cultural icon.

Thornton most recently served as vice president of sports and entertainment marketing for PepsiCo North America, where he led partnerships and built brand affinity across sports entertainment properties, leveraging media, content and activation investments to drive growth for the beverage portfolio.

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During his time at PepsiCo, Thornton also served as chief marketing officer of Gatorade. He previously held multiple marketing leadership roles for the Nike and Jordan brands over nearly 10 years, proving instrumental in leading transformational brand initiatives.

“Kalen is a visionary and a proven leader who understands how to create memorable moments for consumers,” Powell said. “With a strong record of building celebrated global brands, Kalen is the right leader to help us connect to a new generation through the joy of pizza. I am thrilled for him to join our team and help us take Pizza Hut to the next level.”

“I believe creativity, community and culture bring people together,” Thornton said. “I’m humbled at the opportunity to contribute to Pizza Hut’s long legacy as a brand that connects across those dimensions, and I’m thrilled to help shape the future resonance and growth of this iconic brand.”

As Pizza Hut’s new chief marketing officer for the U.S., Friebe will report to incoming Pizza Hut U.S. President, Carl Loredo. Friebe joins Pizza Hut from Taco Bell, where she served in a number of positions over nearly three decades, most recently as chief brand strategy officer. In her new role at Pizza Hut, she will lead all aspects of marketing for the brand’s U.S. business. Friebe will succeed Lindsay Morgan, who is departing the brand after serving more than eight years in various marketing leadership roles.

“I am proud and excited that Pizza Hut is attracting top talent in the industry, and I’m confident that Kalen and Melissa will do great things in their new roles,” Powell said. “I’m also very grateful for the contributions that Lindsay Morgan has made to the Pizza Hut brand over the last many years, including our record-breaking World’s Largest Pizza activation and the successful launch of Melts, and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”

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