Staff Reporters
Jun 17, 2021

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Thomas Chen, Yum China

After years in fintech marketing, this CMO now leads the digital enhancement of marketing and consumer experience efforts for the forward-thinking fast food giant.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Thomas Chen, Yum China
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

P. Thomas Chen

Chief marketing officer
Yum China
New member 

Thomas Chen leads marketing efforts for China's largest restaurant chain holding company, operating more than 10,000 fast food restaurants like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell in over 1500 cities along with owned brands like East Dawning, Little Sheep, Huang Ji Huang, and Coffii & Joy.

QSR marketing in China is notoriously competitive, innovative and also as fast-paced as the food orders it delivers. In 2020, the online business of the KFC brand alone generated $17 billion in sales, up approximately 45% year-on-year. KFC’s digital transformation in China has been underway for years, a process deeply rooted in its branding, consumer touchpoints, and evidently also its sales.  Interestingly, it’s a great fit for Chen, whose career started in QSR chains but came to Yum last summer after working for seven years in another innovative hotbed, the fintech industry, as Tencent’s head of marketing for fintech. 

Having successfully tapped into the esports and gaming communities in recent years with its award-winning Colonel KI campaign, KFC continues to differentiate itself among the Chinese youth in its influencer marketing campaigns.  Recently, it hired both virtual Colonel Sanders_K and Chinese singer and actor Lu Han as new brand ambassadors. 

Because of its powerful impact, Yum China was named to Time magazine’s first annual TIME100 Most Influential Companies list in April as the only restaurant company for "inventing the future of fast food." It’s a reputation Yum would like to pass on.  On June 1st Children's Day earlier this month, Yum China officially launched a digital classroom initiative to help children in remote areas with limited online resources gain digital skills for the future. 

Selling localised food through unique social media campaigns made the brand popular and successful. Last year, Wuhan was under lockdown. KFC sold the city's iconic food, hot dry noodles. Co-branding with the largest content owners and brands inside and out of China, KFC cooperated with the Palace Museum to celebrate Chinese New Year and produced KFC ×KARL LAGERFELD Original Recipe Chicken for the 80th-anniversary of the iconic product. 

Chen held a master's degree in integrated marketing communication from Northwestern University and began his career marketing for the Ting Hsin chain of fast food restaurants, followed by Expedia’s Chinese travel service subsidiary, eLong. He then moved to Interbrand for more than five years where he served as managing director for Greater China.

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


Campaign Asia

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