Catching Up With George Felix

George Felix, Chief Marketing Officer with Pizza Hut U.S., wasn’t always a marketer. It took a job in IT and some advice from his father to help him find the right direction for his career. He now pays it forward by encouraging others who are trying to find their way, to find something they are passionate about and always be willing to learn. He and his team are also working to ensure Pizza Hut’s marketing efforts reflect and embrace the diversity of its employees and customers.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A sports broadcaster. I am a sports junkie and I’d practice commentating games with the TV on mute while I watched them. I get my fix now by commentating the 1 on 1 basketball games I play with my son.

Who was someone who inspired you as a kid/early career?

My Dad. My Dad grew up in India in a small, rural town and was raised by parents who believed education could unlock opportunities. He went to medical school when he was 16 years old and then moved to the U.S. to complete his residency. He was an immigrant in a new country with the money in his pocket. He worked incredibly hard to develop his own cardiology private practice where he became the chief of cardiology at several hospitals in Toledo, Ohio, where I was born and raised. My first job was filing medical records at his office. I have never known anyone who worked as hard as him and was as committed to his faith and family.

Share a learning experience and/or turning point that impacted your career.

The biggest turning point was when I switched careers. My undergraduate degree was in management information systems and after four years in a project management IT job, I realized it was not “getting me out of bed in the morning.” My Dad told me I needed to find something that I was passionate about. I ended up quitting my job in IT and went to business school to pursue a career in marketing and brand management which was something I was interested in while in college, but hadn’t pursued because I was told it was really hard to get a job in marketing.

What are you reading now?

I recently read “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning”by Jason Reynolds, with whom Pizza Hut partnered for our Empowering Educators initiative. It has been the most educational book I’ve read on the history of racism and what it means to be antiracist. ­­­­

As a leader of the Marketing Team, how are you promoting equity and inclusion?

There are several things we are doing to promote equity and inclusion on the Marketing team.

  1. Our efforts in the literacy space are expanding to have more focus on equity. I’m really proud of the “Stories for All” initiative that aims to improve representation for underrepresented minority groups in children’s books. I’m also very excited about the work we’ve done partnering with American University’s Antiracism Institute to provide free resources to educators so they can facilitate conversations about race with their students. The work done by the PR, BOOK IT! Program, and the social impact teams on these initiatives is exceptional!
  2. Multicultural marketing efforts. I’m excited about the approach we are taking to put a lens of equity and inclusion across all marketing touchpoints. Whether it’s the deep dive lunch and learn meetings on LatinX and African American communities, or forming the Brand Advisory Council which is made up of Pizza Hut employees from across functions that are reviewing advertising materials to ensure we are taking diverse viewpoints into account when evaluating our marketing materials, we are driving real change in the way we operate as a Marketing organization.
  3. Advertising Talent. We are ensuring we are more representative and inclusive of talent in front of the camera and behind the camera as a brand. I’m proud to say that we worked with our first female director and all female crew earlier this year, and that shoot resulted in the delicious looking food that you saw in our Double It Box, $10 Tastemaker, and Original Pan® Pizza advertising. We are also looking to be better about casting diverse talent in our advertising to be more representative of the customer base that we serve.
  4. I’m very excited to be serving as the Executive Sponsor of the newly formed employee resource group supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Our group is called YES! (Yum! Equality Society) and we are focused on creating a work environment at the corporate office that supports our colleagues who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as teaching more people what true allyship looks like.

What do you appreciate most about working with franchisees?

Their knowledge of how this business really works and the time they invest to teach us about it. If you spend any amount of time talking with our franchisees or visiting their restaurants, you will learn so much about what really matters in our business. So many of the decisions we make as a franchisor impact team members and the ability of operators to run great restaurants. Learning from our franchisees helps us make better decisions that will enable our teams to execute with excellence for our customers.

Are you involved in the community? If so, how?

We typically like to volunteer at our kids’ school, but most of those opportunities are not options now due to COVID-19 restrictions. One thing Mary (my wife) and I did prior to the election, was to work with an organization to assemble 1,000 “safe voter kits” – a mask, gloves and sanitizing wipes in a sealed bag – that could be distributed to people to help them feel safe about going to vote. It’s something we are passionate about and it was a way for us to feel like we were helping in a way that worked for us.

Favorite place traveled?

When my wife, Mary, and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary, we took a trip to the Maldives (right before travel was locked down). It was amazing…the trip of a lifetime!

Any fun fact to share?

As a kindergartener, two friends and I stole the show at our school’s talent show with our lip-synching performance to Tears for Fears’ smash hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” My pleather jacket and plastic guitar were pretty epic.

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