Chipotle Tells Consumers: ‘Make Your Own’ Fare

Chipotle Mexican Grill, looking to tout its wide variety of menu items and ingredients, has launched a fresh advertising campaign along with an interactive component called “My Chipotle.”

A multimedia blitz in nine major Chipotle regions is at the crux of the campaign, which also includes a microsite, Mychipotle.com, and an invitation for consumers to provide audio and video recordings of their own burrito creations.

According to Chipotle execs, the restaurant chain – which prides itself on serving “Food With Integrity” — offers 60,000-plus various food combinations on its menu. Based in Denver, Chipotle operates more than 850 locations nationwide.

Advertising, via Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., targets consumers in nine metro regions: Cleveland, Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City, Denver, Dallas, Cincinnati, Chicago and Sacramento, Calif. The placement includes local radio, weekly publications and lots of out-of-home venues (billboards, bus shelters, taxi tops).

“With this campaign, it is our intention to harness the power of our most loyal fans,” said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle CMO, in a statement. “We want them to be a part of the process because we know they’re consistently expressing themselves through their menu choices. By encouraging them to tell us why they eat what they do, we think they’ll spread the word and encourage others to come in and give Chipotle a try as well.”

Chipotle’s menu offerings allow customers to create their own burrito, taco and salad combinations. The campaign calls attention to the varied options available at Chipotle and demonstrates how meals in the restaurant can be personalized by and for each customer.

According to company officials, the “My Chipotle” campaign is based on research surrounding customer preferences which found that many customers were ordering the same thing every time they visited Chipotle. The research suggested that the ordering experience was confusing, even intimidating, to new customers and that, coupled with a perceived lack of choice, set many customers into a routine where they order the same thing on every visit. The new campaign better demonstrates the universe of menu combinations available at Chipotle for both existing customers and potential new ones, according to a release announcing the new campaign.

“Chipotle is a ‘passion brand,’ with dedicated brand ambassadors in every corner of the country,” said Mike Shine, co-founder and executive creative director of BSSP. “Chipotle has hundreds of unofficial fan groups on Facebook, posts funny fan photos on their Web site and also has a number of photos on Flickr taken by dedicated customers. So the most effective way to spread our message of variety is to do it through the people that already know about Chipotle’s unique menu and love it.”

The Web site component allows consumers to send content to Chipotle and view selected content submitted by other users. Chipotle will add new functions to the site as additional content is added, allowing users to share content using social media applications, rate submissions and sort content to find favorites. The best entries may be used as part of the campaign.

The effort is scheduled to run through November.

Chipotle spent $7 million on U.S. advertising in 2008 (not including online expenditures), per Nielsen.