Chipotle is a fast-growing casual restaurant chain that has a very specific value-laden marketing message, "Food with Integrity". I personally like the taste of their food and their prices are not bad either, but neither of those attributes of Chipotle are given prominence in their marketing campaigns. A recent campaign aimed at illustrating the difference that Chipotle's sourcing makes in a satirical way, mentioned Chipotle itself only once, in an effort that executives described as "values integration", as opposed to "product integration". If you visit Chipotle's website, you'll notice that "Food With Integrity" is the title tag of their page, in red in the navigation menu, and is featured as the very first slogan. From their website, the describe "Food with Integrity" as follows:
It means serving the very best sustainably raised food possible with an eye to great taste, great nutrition and great value... It means that we support and sustain family farmers who respect the land and the animals in their care... And it means that we source organic and local produce when practical... Food With Integrity is a journey that started more than a decade ago and one that will never end.
According to some studies, Chipotle is among America's Favorite Fast Food chains, and Chipotle ranks 3rd out of 61 fast food chains on Ranker's list of Top Fast Food Brands. Chipotle has been a remarkable success story, due to their phenomenal growth that is more typical of the technology sector rather than the food sector. As a result, their stock is up over 500% in the past 5 years. Clearly, a marketing campaign that places values at the forefront can produce big dividends for a company.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about Chipotle's marketing campaign is that their brand taps into Purpose Seeking values that are often associated with liberals, without turning off conservatives. Indeed, if we examine the correlates of Chipotle fandom on Facebook, Twitter, and Ranker, there is very little overtly political content, meaning that Chipotle fans can be both liberal and conservative, even as their sustainability and animal welfare message is one that is often associated with liberal causes. Indeed, according to Ranker data, Chipotle fans are also likely to be fans of liberal Michelle Obama, socially conservative Chick Fil-A, politically agnostic Mark Zuckerberg. Chipotle appeals to younger consumers, also according to our Ranker data, and younger consumers are more likely to put shared values as a reason for buying products. Yet purpose seeking is not a uniquely liberal trait. Research has shown that conservatives and liberals alike are likely to donate time and volunteer. Other research has shown that people, especially liberals, tend to exaggerate perceived differences in liberal vs. conservative values.
While Chipotle's messaging and customer base may lean liberal, they have managed to focus on a Purpose Seeking message that generally appeals to the aspirational consumer in all of us. In the same way that Michelle Obama's active lifestyle campaign crosses political lines, so to does Chipotle's focus on food, health, and caring for animals, which are goals that we all can share. Chipotle illustrates how such values-based messaging can resonate beyond typically liberal enclaves and how a values-based approach allows a brand to innovate and achieve enviable growth in an established industry.
- Ravi Iyer