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How Chipotle Used Inbound Marketing as a PR Tactic

Chipotle Marketing

With multiple E. Coli outbreaks and norovirus ending up in some stores, with inevitable court dates on the horizon which are sure to make headlines, Chipotle has spent months scrambling to win back our trust. When you have literally become the butt of the joke it is probably time to take a step back and plan a path to redemption. For Chipotle, this came in the way of a free burrito offer. But will a free burrito do the trick?

As the number of concerns about food safety in its supply chains grew, Chipotle felt enough pressure that it decided to close all of its 2,000 stores for an “emergency safety meeting.” In order to make up for the time lost to those who simply cannot survive without their burrito fix, they offered a quick text campaign for a free coupon. All you needed to do was text “raincheck” to the specified number… then follow the link you were sent…then fill out a form…AND THEN you would receive your coupon. So, while some might consider this choice to give away their product as being bad for business, it was actually a cleverly disguised Inbound Marketing campaign.


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Why is that an important distinction? To start off, not only are they assuring that at least some of the customers whom they would otherwise lose show up at a later date (you had until the end of the month to use it,) they are also gaining valuable lead information from those customers who simply do not care about the health scares. These folks might turn out to be “evangelists” that would help Chipotle bounce back once this entire situation is behind them.


One thing to note is that there have been other well-known food companies (such as Blue Bell and Dole) which have had outbreaks where people actually died; so from that point of view, this outbreak has been of a lesser degree. However, this has not stopped those in the industry from taking a few jabs at the “conscientious” food chain while it is still down. Some of them have even said this was a long time coming based on Chipotle’s own self-righteous marketing tactics, but it has still been sad to witness the deterioration of such a large American brand.

Personally, I believe risky food consumption for myself has led to a pretty hearty stomach which withstands forces no mere human could endure; however, I take safety concerns pretty seriously when it comes to my family’s feasting.  So while I will take advantage of my free burrito coupon it will likely be a solo trip. Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments below.

If you want to avoid this kind of bad PR moment there are some things you can do, the main one involves creating a solid strategy which includes how you will react to events outside of your control. Need some help coming up with that strategy? Contact us today and a specialist will schedule your very own consultation.