Karlene Lukovitz writes at MediaPost.com that Dunkin’ Brands’ Thursday announcement that it is “strengthening” its senior leadership team by putting veteran retail executive John Costello in the new position of chief global customer and marketing officer also carried the news that Frances Allen, brand marketing officer for Dunkin’ Donuts for two years, has concurrently “decided to step down.”

Earlier this month, Dunkin’ Donuts president and chief brand officer William Kussell stepped down as Nigel Travis — who had moved from president/CEO of Papa John’s to succeed Jon Luther as Dunkin’ Brands’ CEO in January 2009 — also took over the Dunkin’ chain’s day-to-day operations.

Costello, described as “one of the early pioneers of multichannel marketing,” has served as EVP of merchandising and marketing at The Home Depot, senior EVP of Sears and chief global marketing officer of Yahoo, as well as president of Nielsen Marketing Research U.S. and top executive of several other companies. His earlier career included senior marketing and brand management positions at Procter & Gamble and serving as SVP of sales and marketing at Pepsi-Cola, USA.

Costello has been elected to the Retail Advertising Hall of Fame and named one of the top 10 merchants by DSN Retailing Today and one of marketing’s 30 most influential people by Advertising Age.

Costello’s new, corporate-wide marketing role at Dunkin’, reporting directly to Travis, includes oversight of strategic worldwide marketing and brand identity, heading up the company’s U.S. marketing team and working with operations, and providing functional direction to DD’s international marketing team and Baskin-Robbins’ U.S. and international marketing teams.

In the announcement, Travis said that Costello was chosen because of his marketing expertise, extensive operations background and “proven ability to deliver results.” In an email to DD and Baskin-Robins franchisees, republished in bluemaumau.org, Travis noted that Costello is not only “a seasoned executive who has led the marketing efforts for some of the world’s best-known consumer goods, retailing and technology companies,” but he has “gained great insights into our brands” as a consultant for Dunkin’ Brands over the past several months, and “should have a great impact on our marketing deliverables right away.”

Travis also stressed that Costello’s appointment reflects Travis’s desire to make Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands a “more operations-focused organization” and drive “outstanding marketing that both differentiates our brand and delivers sales.”

Travis has in past months stated that he wants Dunkin’ Donuts to be more responsive to changing consumer trends and increased competition. “You can expect to see us sharpen our stores and be more competitive in terms of price, product, and advertising,” he told the Boston Globe. “We need to be very fast on our feet and use every weapon that we can.” Frances Allen is also a veteran, visible marketer who only last month was named Brandweek’s “Marketer of the Year” for her contributions to Dunkin’ Donuts. Travis acknowledged those contributions in the release and franchisee memo, stating that she has “worked tirelessly” to solidify Dunkin’ Donuts’ position as a coffee leader, launch the successful DDSMART menu of healthier choices and “develop award-winning marketing campaigns designed to drive traffic, promote the company’s everyday value offerings and further underscore that ‘America Runs on Dunkin’.”

Allen’s 20-plus years of experience before joining Dunkin’ includes serving as VP, marketing for Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications and in senior marketing positions at PepsiCo.

According to Travis’s franchisee memo, those reporting directly to Costello will include VP, consumer engagement Cynthia Ashworth; senior director, field marketing Walter Erwin; directors of field marketing Tom Manchester, Roxanne Bensason and Dave Kozak; senior director, brand marketing Scott Hudler; director, consumer insights Rebecca Zogbi; senior administrative assistant Cheryl St. John; and the open position of VP, brand marketing.

Susan McElaney, director of international marketing, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Brad Wahl, VP of marketing USA, Baskin-Robbins, will have functional reporting relationships to Costello.

Travis’s new team also includes new SVP corporate communications Karen Raskopf (formerly SVP, corporate communications for Blockbuster) and SVP human resources Christine Deputy (formerly VP, partner resources for Starbucks’s Asia-Pacific region), both named in late August.

One of the Travis’s challenges is improving relations with Dunkin’ Brands franchisees. Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees have publicly accused the company of seeking to push out some franchisees and make profits from penalties levied for alleged contract violations. About 350 lawsuits have been filed.

Dunkin’ Brands has strongly denied the allegations. Still, Travis told the Boston Globe that it is one of his “biggest goals” to take franchisee relationships “to a higher level.”