BW: Estimated media/marketing budget for 2009? And where will the bulk of the media buying come from?
MC: It’s not a significant increase from what we did last year ($7 to $10 million annually, excluding online, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus). In the past, a lot of our marketing budget goes to what we call local store marketing. That is going to continue to be a major part of what we do, but we’ll have a more nationally focused campaign. We’ll divert a little of that money into more traditional media, more on a national, as opposed to local level. We’ll also be doing less in terms of sports sponsorships, such as the amount of money we’ve committed in the past to our Tour de France sponsorship.
BW: What’s your take on value messaging? Does any of that have a place in Chipotle’s advertising? Seems like that’s all that brands are talking about nowadays.
MC: We’ve always had a value message, even though it hasn’t been explicitly stated. We have really large portions of food and a big chunk of our customers really recognize that. But I don’t think you’ll be seeing the value messaging in the advertising. That’s what everyone is marketing. We are probably going to make some slight menu changes. They’re primarily going to be around encouraging people to see more variety in our menu than it is in actually promoting value.
BW: And your new agency of record—Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners. What made you choose them over other agencies vying for the account?
MC: We went through an elaborate selection process: 26 agencies to get down to this one. All 26 had to present basic innovation ideas and seven were asked to present their capabilities and three were paid to do a 10-week assignment. We really got to know the last three agencies during the last 10 weeks because it became apparent pretty quickly that Butler understood the quirky nature of the Chipotle brand. They have the Mini account and the Converse account, both of which do really nice jobs of marketing the brands without a very corporate feel to them. Both have a very grassroots, word-of-mouth feeling to them.
BW: And now, somewhat off topic (but not really): Favorite Chipotle burrito and how do you like it served?
MC: I’ve been eating at Chipotle for the past 15 years and, like most of our customers—before I took this position—I’d order the same thing. Since I’ve taken this job, I’ve made it my goal to try everything on the menu. Turns out the thing that I now love is carnitas. I usually have a burrito bowl with pinto beans, but I’ve never tried the carnitas until now. I’ve talked to guys who have been going to Chipotle two, three days a week for the past eight to 10 years, and they say, ‘We always have the same thing.’ That’s something I’d like to change with our marketing. I can tell you I like my new carnita bowl better than I like my chicken one.