Chipotle, the quick-service restaurant chain, has leveraged insights from its team of social media “culture hunters” in rapidly adapting to the challenges of COVID-19.

Candice Beck, Chipotle’s senior manager/social and digital, discussed this subject on a webinar that was held by Brand Innovators.

“Our social team is made up of ‘culture hunters,’” she explained. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: (For more, read WARC’s report: Chipotle bounces back with rapid shifts in strategy during COVID-19.)

“They’re online all day, every day. They’re keeping a pulse on what’s happening. Because of them, we’re able to make those quick changes.”

One insight from this appreciation of the zeitgeist: “We’re seeing people wanting … humour to brighten their day. And we’ve tested it here and there,” said Beck.

“Our content is really starting to lean back into that. We’re finding that people are just searching for any sort of sense of normalcy.”

The wider changes brought about by COVID-19 – including restrictions that limit restaurants to only serving takeout – demanded a fast response.

“We adjusted our strategy as a brand to focus mostly on the things that we knew would matter most to our fans – free delivery, mobile-order pickup, and carry-out options. We quickly adjusted every piece of creative that we had in rotation across all of our channels,” Beck said.

And Chipotle was better positioned than many brands to act with such dynamism, given that it has long favoured speed as a digital principle.

“The social team,” Beck said, “has been in a really nimble position. Even pre-COVID, we typically didn’t plan a month out so that we could really react to culture in real time.

“For any of our recent activations, our focus has really been on trying to predict the climate and where people will be when we actually launch something.”

Should the popular mood evolve in unanticipated ways, however, “We’re always prepared to make a shift if anything were to change. But we’re definitely leaning in ... A lot of us are going [online] for a break – a place to find happy, fun, positive content.”

Sourced from WARC