| 4 minutes read

4 minutes read

How Chipotle Grew Up To Become A Star Brand Using Various Marketing Strategies

| Published on April 18, 2023

One of the first casual dining restaurants, the American fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, simply referred to as Chipotle serves a simple and classic range of Mexican-inspired food. The brand derived its name from a smoked hot chili pepper called Chipotle, which is often used in Mexican cooking.

But what made the brand a hit deserves to be known. Here is how the $47.33 billion worth of brand came to be known for its mouth-watering Mexican dishes and loyal millennial customer base.

History in brief

A classically-trained chef from the Culinary Institute of America, Steve Ells discovered the growing popularity of the taquerias and burritos in the Mission district.
This prompted him to set up the first Chipotle Mexican Grill in Denver, Colorado, in 1993. And since then, there has been no looking back.

Over time, Chipotle has grown to more than 3,000 store locations, which together serve over one million customers every day.

While the restaurant’s popularity grew leaps and bounds, McDonald’s invested $50 million, thus helping the restaurant brand scale up faster in relatively lesser time. However, in within a few years, McDonald’s took back its investment and the two brands went separate ways owing to their different approaches in food to business and its philosophy.

Marketing strategies that gave Chipotle a boost in business

The target segment of Chipotle accounts for college students and young professionals who want healthy food prepared quickly as opposed to fast food. With offerings like tacos, salads, burritos, and bowls, priced on a value-pricing strategy, Chipotle sells its products through its stores and apps on phone.

All of their marketing strategies are based on their core value of ‘Food With Integrity’, urging audiences to check on their source of food and eat responsibly.

Here is a sneak peek into its marketing strategy.

1. Customer-oriented approach

The brand focuses on providing an unforgettable customer experience. Right from its stores’ playlist to a minimalist outlet design, the point of focus is the customer.

The brand works on all aspects of a fast-casual restaurant chain like the speed of service, convenience, and familiarity. However, the brand stood out due to its focus on the use of
fresh ingredients.

2. Digital marketing strategy

Considering its target audience, the brand uses digital marketing to get closer and stay relatable.

With a massive presence across all social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and even TikTok, the brand focuses on staying relevant and facilitating easy recall.

3. Content Marketing

The brand realized the importance of content marketing early. It has been leveraging the use of stories in its marketing strategies.

Campaigns like ‘Cultivating Thought’ had 10 well-known authors write stories, that were put up on cups and food bags, generating intrigue and goodwill.

They sponsor ‘Food for Thought’, a campaign within the Huffington Post that raises awareness about various food practices from industry experts and consumers.

Another campaign worth a mention is their ‘Back to Start’ content marketing ads that use animation graphics to convey how humane farming techniques are more powerful and better than industrialized ones.

4. Freebies, Customer delight, and much more

With an unwavering focus on customer satisfaction, the brand comes up with innovative ideas to keep customers in the loop.

For example, Chipotle distributed 100,000 free burritos to healthcare workers on National Burrito Day, expressing gratitude to all those fighting on the frontline during the COVID outbreak.

Chipotle also launched its loyalty club in 2019, which massed more than 23+ million reward members in just two years.

They also launch distinct merchandise to delight customers from time to time.

5. Festivals and events

Chipotle hosts the Cultivate Festival- a series of festivals across America that has celebrity chef demonstrations, live music, and experiences informing participants about sustainable and organic food resources.

6. Using professional athletes as Ambassadors

This is done differently than any other brand.

If there’s any athlete that expresses their delight after tasting food from Chipotle, they send them a card, guaranteeing them a free burrito per day for life. This has prompted many pro athletes to flaunt their love for the brand, like Drew Gooden, Mario Chalmers and Abby Wambach.

Noteworthy achievements by Chipotle

For someone who started a fast food brand just to support the idea of owning a fine-dine, Chipotle made Steve Ells a billionaire.

In the decade after its IPO in 2006, Chipotle gave its investors a return of more than 3600%.

The brand even after 27 years in the market continues to scale, by adding outlets every year.

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