Chipotle Marketing Lessons: Keeping it Real

Chipotle is a popular American fast food restaurant chain. But so is McDonald’s. Chipotle specializes in Mexican food. But so does Taco Bell. Then what makes Chipotle different? Many things. Like the fact that the brand aims at keeping things real. Or that Chipotle marketing strategy has always created a buzz. There have been ups and downs. But today the brand has grown to become one that challenges food culture. One that has caused a paradigm shift in the fast food realm. 

So, if you are looking for marketing inspiration to get your food business to the next level, or if you need food ad ideas to strengthen your brand, Chipotle marketing is definitely a good place, to begin with. 

In this Kimp blog, let’s find out what Chipotle does differently that it has emerged to become one of the favorite American fast food chains. And let’s also look at some of the iconic ads and social media posts that have helped the brand get to where it is today. 

Chipotle Marketing – Lessons and Campaign Ideas for Every Brand

The way consumers connect with brands is more like the way they connect with other people. They encounter strangers every day. But only a few that make contact, and leave a positive effect on them will become acquaintances and then friends. Brands are no different. 

You might be walking past several brands every time you shop at a supermarket. But how many of these do you actually venture to try? And how many do you stick with after that first encounter? It depends on the impression the brand makes. And on how often you see the brand on billboards, social media posts, and web ads. 

So, for a brand to be successful amidst competition, it needs to make consistent impressions on the target audience. Year after year. Ad after ad. That’s how Chipotle grew too. Let’s look at how Chipotle built its brand image through its marketing. 

1. Define your brand personality and help your customers connect with it

Defining your brand personality is not enough. You need to ensure that your customers identify and connect with this personality. What you say about your brand in every ad becomes what people believe about your brand. 

If you keep talking about “value-for-money” menu items, that’s what people think your restaurant is known for. If you keep talking about quick service, they start looking at your restaurant as a place to go to when they are in a hurry. So, know what you want people to associate your brand with. And use all of your marketing visuals to capture this idea. 


Chipotle stands for delivering “food with integrity”. It has always been about “keeping it real”. About keeping things fresh and locally sourced. Every single ad, every single campaign, and all of its outlet processes continue to remind people of this.  

The below award-winning ad from Chipotle, from the year 2011, summarizes this idea. 

Due to Chipotle’s consistent marketing efforts, people have started connecting the brand with these values. So if you ask what Chipotle reminds them of, most people might say “fresh ingredients”. The brand’s 2021 short film, A Future Begins, comes as a sequel to the above “Back to the Start” ad. And this just shows how the brand has been holding on to its core values over the years. 

Kimp Tip: If you keep changing your brand values, you end up confusing your customers. The same happens if you keep changing the visual styles in your ads. So, ensure that your brand’s visuals are coherent. 

This becomes so much simpler by working with a dedicated design team at Kimp

2. Be quick to adapt to the trends 

The pandemic period was tough with businesses having to shut down during the lockdown. Restaurant businesses took a big hit. As a brand, you might have it all sorted. But such unprecedented events force you to pivot your strategies. How quickly you respond and how you adapt to the trends determines how well your business sustains in the situation. 

Chipotle showed the world how this is done with its Chipotle Together campaign. 

This campaign was about virtual lunch parties where celebrities joined and the brand gave away free burritos too. There were live performances too. This campaign was a big hit among customers. See what customers spoke about this campaign on social media. 


With this campaign, the brand not just managed to keep the business running but also won the hearts of customers and thus strengthened loyalty. 

As a brand, you can use this idea to strengthen engagement with your customers. Going live is easy today. You have Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube for this. By conducting live sessions regularly you build a sense of community. And that’s a mandatory requirement for retaining customers. 

3. Brand messaging, but in a language your customers understand 

We mentioned that Chipotle has been emphasizing its use of natural and organic ingredients in its menu. But do you know how the brand does it? Not in a serious, cliched way. But in a more fun and memorable way.

Look at this fun experiment that the brand demonstrated in order to introduce a new “organic Watermelon Limeade drink”.

These ideas work because of two main reasons:

  • Chat-like stories are popular on social media and people instantly connect with them. 
  • Social media users come across crazy ideas like the watermelon and rubber bands trick. So, they will be ready to watch another video or post that follows the trend. If you manage to subtly plug in your idea in these trending concepts, you leave a lasting impression on your customers. 
4. Make meaningful partnerships 

And these partnerships do not always have to be about monetary perks for your brand. Sometimes, partnerships help strengthen your reputation with customers. And if this happens to show how inclusive you are and how culturally rich your brand is, your customer base increases. That’s exactly what Chipotle did in its collaboration with Happy Hippie Foundation, a non-profit supporting homeless and LGBTQ youth. 

5. Fall in love with what your customers love 

When you talk about your brand most of your customers listen. But when you talk about what your customers love, they all listen and they share the message with their network as well. We’ll explain this with an example. 

Do you know about the brief few moments when Chipotle on Twitter became “Chicotle”? 

Most BTS fans will have heard about this. In a behind-the-scenes video, Jungkook was seen mispronouncing Chipotle as “Chicotle”. Social media conversations like these have a strong impact on customers. They make your brand sound more approachable. A friendly vibe is something that Chipotle has always been maintaining and therefore this is a good thing for the brand.

To quickly tap into such opportunities that can strengthen your brand image, social listening is your key. Look for brand mentions and discussions related to your brand. And also keep yourself informed of all things trending and see if you can make a campaign out of it. Or at least a simple social media post for authentic interaction with your customers. 

6. Find unique ways to reward your customers 

Loyalty points, rewards, we know them all! But how you align these ideas with your brand can make a huge difference. If you look at most of Chipotle’s competitors, they introduce limited-time offers, limited-time menus, and much more. But Chipotle very rarely changes its menu. It does not always go with flashy discounts. Instead, it comes up with the most fun ways to reward customers. 

The Guac Mode, Chipotle’s reward program for customers is one such example. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Chipotle (@chipotle)

And staying true to its strength in marketing, Chipotle consistently spoke about Guac Mode via emails and social media. 

Kimp Tip: When you want to talk about a specialty reward program as in the above example, or if you want to give customers regular updates about a particular campaign, create a strong visual identity for that campaign. This can be in the form of a particular set of fonts and colors just for that campaign. So, when your customers scroll through your social media page, they will instantly distinguish posts regarding this particular campaign.

Busy campaigns can call for plenty of marketing designs. Don’t worry. We got you covered. With Kimp subscriptions, you get unlimited designs every month. 

7. There is strength in copy 

As a design company, we can tell you this – design and copy are two inseparable entities in marketing. One can elevate the other or pull it down. When you want to make the strongest impact in the shortest time, you need good design and great copy. And Chipotle knows this too well. That’s why not just its social media content but also its billboards have always been acclaimed for the copy. 

Here are some examples if you haven’t already fallen in love with Chipotle’s billboard designs. 

Your design and copy should make a harmonious couple. That’s how you create memorable ads. The Kimp team is here to help you add more power to your copy with stunning designs. 

8. It’s alright to fail – just be sure to bounce back with a bang 

In 2015, Chipotle was under the radar for multiple food-borne illnesses cases tracing back to the restaurant. Events like these can tarnish your brand image. And leave a permanent burn. Chipotle did face the effects of this. Customers lost trust in the brand. And its income fell by 44% in 2016

Thoughtful measures to refine your business model and strong marketing strategies are the only rays of hope during such times. For Chipotle, it was no different. Here are a few things Chipotle did to tackle the situation. 

  • Introduced many new food safety measures. A country-wide meeting was conducted to discuss this. And all of Chipotle’s outlets remained closed for lunch that day. This news spread pretty quickly and it gave customers a speck of confidence that the brand was serious about making changes. 
  • A loyalty program was added and this brought in more new customers 
  • As a result of this program, the app interactions increased. And this meant that the company could monitor and understand customers better. 
  • Digital food strategy came into place. And this included digital pickup shelves where customers could order online, walk into a store, pick up their order and walk out without delays. 

All of these measures put together helped Chipotle bounce back and become one of the top performing stocks in the year 2018

Kimp Tip: To bounce back after a crisis situation like the one above, you need a strong rebranding approach. Sometimes, this calls for a logo redesign and the creation of a whole new visual style for your brand. This way, you can be sure that your designs are a reflection of the new direction in which your business is headed. 

Want to work on your designs for rebranding? The Kimp team is here to help. 

Executing Your Chipotle-Inspired Campaign Ideas With Kimp

One of the main reasons for Chipotle’s strong customer engagement is its social media presence. The brand never fails to wow its audience. With memes, fun videos, and other interactive posts, the brand makes sure that its followers on social media always have something to look forward to. Social media is about building a strong rapport with your customers. Knowing that brands like Chipotle find visuals to be of great importance for this purpose, add more visuals to your social media marketing strategy. Wondering how to do that? Don’t worry, a Kimp subscription is just a click away. 

And you can also start your free 7-day trial without paying anything upfront. Register now!