Thought Leadership
  • Content marketing

Case study: How Chipotle earned the love of millennials

Anna James
15th February 2017

Why the burrito brand is at the top of the food chain.

Millennials are the coveted target market for many brands, but some reach the demographic better than others. Our expert advice? Stop trying too hard - Millennials can smell a brand's desperation. Instead, allow Mediablaze Group’s resident millennials provide the dos and don’ts of millennial marketing and explain what really works.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has one of the most loyal millennial followings of all brands, earning its nickname of “Chipotbae.” (For the non-millennials out there: that is a combination of Chipotle + “bae” - before anyone else) People will even pay real money to advertise their love for Chipotle on their clothing. It’s hard to top that.


Chipotle has taken on a cultural reverence among millennials so strong that even if you think their burritos are overrated, you would never dare say that in front of your peers. It’s “cool” to like Chipotle, to tweet about how much you love it, and to wait 30 minutes in a queue for it. The fast food brand has mastered the perfect recipe for a quick ‘rito, but it’s also found the perfect formula for brand superstardom.

Step 1: Add a dash of integrity

It’s not enough to just taste good anymore. People are more health-conscious and want to feel good about what they’re putting in their bodies and where it’s coming from. Chipotle’s ingredients are sourced from farms rather than factories and are free from artificial fillers and flavours. Millennials care about brands that have solid values, and want to support the mission of Chipotle as well as its product.

Step 2: Put some flavour in your tone of voice

Chipotle’s social media doesn’t sound like a 4.5 billion USD revenue burrito chain; it sounds like your best friend. A witty (sometimes raunchy) 20-something who is up-to-date on all cultural trends. Many brands struggle to develop a genuine millennial voice which incorporates the proper use of the latest lingo, but Chipotle has mastered this. The social media captions are free from misused acronyms and cheesy emojis. Instead, the posts concisely reference language trends in a natural and clever way, rather than including slang just for the sake of appearing relatable. It’s not forcing a sale down your throat, but it’ll make you want to stuff a burrito bowl down instead.



Step 3: Stir up a little competition

Millennials will do quite a lot when they hear the words “free burritos for a year,” which leaves Chipotle with a lot of opportunity for creative competitions. From a haiku contest on Twitter to a matching game that could earn you BOGOF coupons, the brand produces engaging activities its audience is willing to participate in for a prize that is worth the efforts.  


Step 4: Consistency is the secret ingredient

Chipotle consistently delivers each aspect of its brand - every caption is clever and relevant; it continuously delivers on its promise for quality ingredients; and it throws you a cheap burrito deal whenever you need it most. The tone of voice, design, and campaigns work in unison to create a strong brand that millennials can’t resist.

The result? Crazy loyal fans.

Despite Chipotle losing sales following an E. coli breakout in late 2015 that spanned into early 2016, the chain’s most loyal fans still could not stay away. Some even stated that they went to the restaurant more after the scandal because the queues were shorter. Chipotle-lovers have truly supported the brand through thick and thin, showing the strong bond between the brand and its customers.

On top of that, millennials love posting about Chipotle on their social media accounts, which gives the brand a strong word-of-mouth presence. If you go to Chipotle but don't Snapchat a photo of your burrito bowl, did you really go to Chipotle?

Takeaways: How can your brand be more like Chipotle?

1. Build your brand on solid values that your customers can connect with and be vocal about those values in a genuine way.

2. Match the voice of your target audience. Don’t force millennial-isms at them, but join in their conversations. They will know if you’re faking it, so be authentic.

3. Ask yourself: would I do these tasks to win this prize? If the answer isn’t 100% yes, think of a new social competition.

4. Choose one brand personality and develop it fully, in all aspects of the business.

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