Chipotle wants the world to know about its fresh ingredients and easy accessibility, but is still too classy to run limited time offers (LTO) like quick-service restaurants and casual dining chains.
CEO Brian Niccol again called the brand “invisible” to consumers at ICR’s annual industry conference in Orlando, Fla, Tuesday, further claiming Chipotle was too reactive, even defensive, in its prior marketing approach dating back four years ago.
“This doesn’t require LTOs in order to be able to have a brand narrative,” said Niccol. “It just needs to be talking about why is our food different? Why is the experience different?”
Chipotle launched its first “For Real” marketing campaign in September, highlighting its 51 ingredients, but did not increase its marketing budget for the ad blitz, according to John Hartung, the company’s CFO. In fact, Chipotle is spending less as a percentage of sales on ads today compared to the past couple of years. The company did not offer any specifics on financials, only to say that it has shifted its focus to national advertising, rather than local, particularly during sports games.
“I think the marketing team has done a great job of taking the budget, and then putting [ads] where people are going to see it,” said Hartung, adding that Chipotle is not actively looking to increase it’s advertising budget, but is open to spending more in the future if it found a higher investment was required to drive profits and store traffic.
Chipotle spent a total of $1.2 million in television advertising last month, according to analytics firm iSpot.tv.
Mobile Pickup Shelves Coming Soon
For Chipotle, its marketing and digital efforts have the same goal: to keep customers coming back. Arguably its largest project around this initiative focuses on rolling out pickup shelves nationwide in 2019.
The shelves, still being tested at select Chipotle locations around the country, stand to benefit customers and the chain’s delivery partners—namely DoorDash. Both can enter any Chipotle and pick up food in 30 seconds from a designated window.
“I think a lot of places—you walk in, you’re not really sure where your mobile order is,” said Niccol, adding the addition should eliminate tension for customers and drivers when picking up. “You stare at the cashier, the cashier doesn’t really want to look at you because they’ve got a person in line, the person in line looks at you like what are you doing here. So the whole thing turns into an awkward situation.”
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