Chipotle Questions Traditional Advertising

Chipotle Questions Traditional Advertising

The brand challenges the traditional, full-service advertising model - wondering if they could do it better themselves by focusing on generating word-of-mouth.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 1 november 2010

It’s no ‘news’ that the full-service, traditional agency model has an opportunity to evolve and adapt to the increasingly varied needs of the brand and corporate landscape. From 52-week retail advertisers chasing awareness among the mass market to nimbler, more targeted brands nurturing a very particular brand personality, culture and customer mindframe – not all brands need a full-service ad agency. Chipotle is one brand that has decided to forego an agency of record (AOR) and bring advertising in-house. Perhaps more telling than whether they develop advertising in-house or via an advertising agency is the role that advertising plays at Chipotle overall. According to CMO Mark Crumpacker (in an interview with AdAge), Chipotle’s co-CEO Steve Ellis doesn’t believe the brand is dependent on advertising;

For Chipotle, I guess I’d say [advertising] is not less important to our CEO, because he never thought it was that important. He’s asked me [whether] should we do advertising at all.

Instead, Chipotle focuses on generating word-of-mouth marketing, upon which it was built. This Halloween, the brand reshaped its ‘Boo-rito‘ promotion. Historically, customers who visited the store dressed up as a burrito received a free burrito on Halloween – this promotion cost the brand more than $3.5 million last year. Instead, the Boo-rito promotion was tweaked to focus on the horrors of processed foods. Customers who dressed up as a processed food were rewarded with a $2 burrito, with revenue going to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution effort.

The point of the promotion? To better communicate Chipotle’s commitment to “food with integrity” by educating and reinforcing its use of naturally raised meat, local family farm support and significant organic food investment. Communicating these brand promises and reality are something that Chipotle believes it can do more effectively than via a traditional TV campaign.

AdAge: “Why Chipotle Ditched Ad Agencies”


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