Telling Your Brand's Story with Content Marketing: Chipotle

Today was a hectic day. I was running late this morning so I didn’t have time to make breakfast or lunch. On top of that, I had a mean to-do list loaded with time-sensitive tasks that needed to be taken care of at the office ASAP. By the time I was able to leave for a few errands, it was 4pm. A fast-food option would have to do, so I hungrily stumbled into Chipotle.

I brought back my steak bowl to eat at my desk, but I was already in that sluggish state past hungry, so I slowly took each bite. When I started to get full, I realized I had been staring at something peculiar: my Chipotle drink cup. Through my half blurred stare, I saw the cup was covered in the brand’s colors of brown and white - nothing out of the ordinary. After focusing my vision, I realized that most of the cup was literally covered in an essay. At the end of the essay was this line: “Chipotle Tweets #CultivatingThought.” Are you kidding me? If this isn’t a perfect example of how a brand successfully embraces social media marketing, I don’t know what is. I instantly searched the hashtag on Twitter and then opened up a Google Doc to write this article.

The essay was written by David R., age 18. David describes a time that his friend Jacob had done him a small, yet incredible kindness. This essay is one winner in Chipotle’s “Cultivating Creativity Essay Contest.” What does this essay have to do with Mexican fast food? Absolutely nothing. The essay has no relevance to food, convenience, and whatever else Chipotle prides itself in providing and yet, the brand has dedicated a significant amount of marketing real estate to this writing piece. Why would Chipotle use this valuable space on a random essay when they could have used the space for their logo or tagline? Content marketing, my friends, content marketing. 

A quick glance at the #CultivatingThought hashtag shows you the impact of content marketing done right. These essays have customers feeling positive emotions for which they are happily, and publicly, giving Chipotle credit. And the social media chatter is clear. Through this execution of content marketing, Chipotle has positioned itself as a thoughtful, positive, community-minded brand.

Now, I’m sure there are a few of you asking how this digital buzz actually translates into increased sales for Chipotle. What’s the ROI, right? Well, that’s the thing about social media. Businesses that use social media the same as other traditional marketing outlets will be ignored. Those that respect and recognize social media’s potential beyond marketing will win. Instead of ROI, consider ROR (return on relationship). The word “social” is there for a reason. Engage with your customers, encourage communication, and create content that gives your organization a personality and resonates with your audience. If done right, your audience will share your content and do your marketing for you.

If you’re a small business and you’re still using social media as a glorified RSS feed, take a moment to evaluate whether you’re being “social” on social media. Most of our experience with social media platforms have been with our own personal profiles, so many organizations use it in the same way, only posting about themselves. Instead, try to be aware of how brands use social media to successfully get to YOU in YOUR news feeds. What makes you like, comment, or share a piece of content? Don’t be afraid to get creative. This is new territory for all of us and there is plenty of opportunity to set a trend that your business becomes known for.