By: Morgan Borer, @MorganBorer
It’s 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in Athens, Ohio. Court Street is chilly and barren. Some late-night partiers are are sulking in bed, while others have half-heartedly forced themselves up to finish homework at the library. In the midst of studying, they scroll through their Twitter feeds, extending the routine Sunday procrastination.
“Did you miss us? We’ve got burritos today.” The tweet flashes across the screen from @ChipotleTweets. Ah, yes. Mouths watering in anticipation, the students leave the library and head over to Chipotle for dinner. Unsurprisingly, they are forced to wait in a long line, but are willing to do so with the promise of a cheesy, beefy, bundle of goodness.
What makes the Mexican food chain (aside from its guacamole) so brilliant? There are many aspects from a public relations perspective. When the first restaurant opened in Denver in 1993, there was no training department or marketing team.
Now, the company is on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and has its own website and blog. It also produces videos for advertisement, such as the popular short film “The Scarecrow,” in September 2013, which was a companion for its app-based game. “The Scarecrow” received a whopping 13 million views on YouTube.
Chipotle’s official Twitter account (@ChipotleTweets) has 607k followers, and Instagram (@chipotlemexicangrill) has 132k. On Twitter, the company often re-tweets their fans. For example, on December 6, they re-tweeted a picture from two customers on a blind date with the hashtag #WeLoveChipotle.
They often post humorous content and links, such as “The trick to burrito eating,” found on their blog, blog.chipotle.com. They also make a point to reply to customers who have tweeted at them (both positive and negative anecdotes). This proves that the company is highly interactive and values customer feedback and opinion.
On Halloween, the company hosted a social media contest called “Borrito Costume Contest.” Participants were instructed to take a photo of themselves in costume at Chipotle and upload it to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ChipotleBurritoContest. Winners in each of the three categories—Most Creative, Best Group, and Scariest—were awarded a $2,500 grand prize. And everyone knows about their signature Halloween special, customers who come into the restaurant dressed in costume on Halloween get a burrito for $3!
The brand has also partnered with major retailers to gain exposure, including Target. This September, Chipotle announced “The Great Dorm Giveaway,” where students could text DORM3 to a number for a chance to win a Chipotle catering party for 100 and a $1000 Target gift card.
What really separates Chipotle’s marketing strategies from other restaurants and competitors, however, is its guarantee to provide “food with integrity.” According to the company’s website, “Food with integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.” The company inserts the terms “natural,” sustainable,” “organic,” and “locally produced” into much of its literature.
While there is some debate over the company’s agricultural methods, shown in this New Yorker article, http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/what-does-the-scarecrow-tell-us-about-chipotle, consumers tend to associate natural, safe and high-quality ingredients with Chipotle. They feel like they are doing some good for the environment when they choose to eat at Chipotle, rather than McDonalds, where a single hamburger contains over 60 different ingredients.
Finally, the company’s website is extremely transparent. The website provides a wealth of information about the treatment of their animals, specifically the pork, beef, dairy cattle and chicken. They also offer an explanation of what the words “organic” and “local” mean to them.
There is even an easy-to-use Nutrition Calculator, where users can select the exact ingredients of their meal and calculate the calories, fat, sodium, etc. Think twice before you add chips and salsa to that bowl—it’s an extra 590 calories.