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How Chipotle’s VP of digital marketing creates viral-worthy campaigns

Headshot of Tressie Lieberman, VP of Digital Marketing at Chipotle

To recruit new customers, look no further than your existing customers—especially the most passionate ones.

Tressie Lieberman, Chipotle’s vice president of digital marketing, calls these customers “super fans,” and tapping into what makes them tick is key to the company’s marketing strategies.

“Our strategy is definitely to supercharge the super fans,” Lieberman says on Now What?, a podcast by Wix. “When you work at a brand like Chipotle, where people are so passionate about your product and what you stand for, you want to lean into that.”

After you create a website for your business, you should focus on making people feel seen and valued, sending the right message to the right person at the right time and creating opportunities for enjoyment.

In a sense, these are the basic tenets of building relationships with the people who are most passionate (and vocal) about your brand. It can pay off, as they’re most likely to share their experiences with their fans and followers, too.

Here are three ways Lieberman and her team at Chipotle keep their audience engaged in an authentic and meaningful way.

01. Personalize your messaging

Chipotle's website promotion meets their customers where they are with the right messages, tailored to them.

For example, they don't show their new chicken quesadilla to customers who had previously ordered vegetarian. "It's a small thing, but it's such a thoughtful way to show customers that you're paying attention to them, that you know what's important to them, which is ultimately going to build trust," says Lieberman. And at the same time, you'll drive sales by showing up in the right ways for them.

The same applies to the emails customers receive. Chipotle launched a 20-million member celebration last year where they used data to help people understand their engagement with Chipotle—that was one of their most shared emails. "It's really cool when you can see an email making its way to social because people are talking about how they've been shopping at Chipotle over the past year and what they've been eating at Chipotle," says Lieberman.

02. Put fun first

It's well-known in the psychology of selling that tapping into peoples' emotions is essential for getting them to pull out their wallets. When looking at her campaigns, it's obvious Lieberman knows this and uses it to her advantage. "We take our food seriously. We don't take ourselves too seriously,” she says. “And I think it's really important to meet customers where they are and bring in some joy.”

Prime example: Chipotle’s cilantro soap, inspired by how some people say cilantro tastes like soap. "We could ignore that, but instead we're like, 'let's play with it and actually create the soap that smells like cilantro.'" It sold out immediately.​​

Chipotle also partnered with e.l.f. Cosmetics for an ingredient-inspired eyeshadow pallet. This limited edition makeup collection had a huge media response with over three billion impressions driven by that superfandom.

You want to bring the same type of marketing fun to emerging platforms, like the metaverse. Ask yourself, what would my customers actually enjoy here?

For Chipotle, the answer was metaverse burrito parties. "No one wants another virtual event,” Lieberman says. “Let's do it in a way that is so unique to our consumer and Chipotle.”

So, Chipotle recreated a successful Halloween event on Roblox, where customers could go through a Chipotle that looked exactly like one of their stores. "You'd dress up in costume like you would typically do at a Boorito event,” she says. “But then, after that, you could go through a maze and discover virtual items," Lieberman explains. People played 8.5 million times.

03. Don’t wait

Your corporate structure needs to encourage timely conversations and culture-driven campaigns. “As an organization today, where the world is moving in real time, you have to create a structure that responds to culture,” Lieberman says. Lieberman’s team created a system to work with legal quickly and escalate ideas through leadership just as fast. “Everybody has that shared mindset that we are going to move fast because that's how the world works,” she says.

“When you do that enough, you start to build trust within the organization and people want to be a part of that. I've found that when you're doing great work and you're raising the bar and doing the unexpected, it just creates more advocates and more people wanting to join in because it's a lot of fun.”

Listen to the episode now:

Apple Podcasts


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