Chipotle, the fast-casual restaurant chain, is seeking to be a “leader in culture” with its marketing, a strategy that demands the ability to move at high speed.

Candice Beck, senior manager/social and digital at Chipotle, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2020 Digital and Social-Media Conference, which was held online.

“We wanted to be part of culture, and now that we have broken out with a strong brand culture, we're starting to lead. And when you're a leader in culture, more change drives more energy,” she said of its strategy. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: How Chipotle built a dynamic marketing culture.)

The company responded at speed to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that involved hosting Zoom hangout sessions with celebrities and influencers or providing support for frontline healthcare workers.

Similarly, the brand has been a vocal supporter of the movement against systemic racism, in further demonstration of its capacity to jump from theory to practice at a rapid rate.

It’s “not just my team” at work in such instances, Beck explained. “It’s not even just my team and our agency partner. It’s our events team. It’s our legal team. It’s operations. It’s everybody.

“We’re a big company, but we operate like a small, startup business ... We’re all working so fast. We’re all competitive and creative,” she continued. “Once you’ve started that flywheel, it just keeps going.”

Chipotle’s culture-savvy marketing has its roots in a brand crisis, in the form of outbreaks of food-borne illnesses that were linked to its stores between 2015 and 2018.

To recover from this challenging situation, Beck offered, “We changed the rules of sourcing. We flipped the restaurant layout.

“But, by 2018, we needed something. We had gone from leading the food culture to playing defense. So, we flipped the script. We threw out the traditional playbook. And we got real.”

The cultural events where Chipotle began using digital to enter the zeitgeist spanned everything from a comedic plan to “Storm Area 51” in search of alien life to NBA basketball games and an activation at the Lollapalooza festival.

“We moved fast on new ideas that we pulled off in just two or three weeks. And then we tested and we learned to move in real time,” Beck said.

Sourced from WARC