Cannes Lions

Chipotle x Venmo

CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL, Newport beach / CHIPOTLE / 2019

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Overview

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Overview

Background

Chipotle is undergoing a digital transformation. Winning back loyal customers is a top priority. So in 2019, when Chipotle launched its loyalty program, they had to get people to take notice and drive enrollments at scale. The problem is that the loyalty space is crowded—every brand already has one. The challenge was to break through the noise on social media with no paid advertising.

Idea

To launch Chipotle’s loyalty program, which would save fans money, Chipotle looked to see where their fans are actually talking about money. That led to Venmo, Gen Z’s go-to peer to peer payments platform, which they saw as an emerging social platform. The only problem: Venmo doesn’t allow advertising.

So Chipotle took over the global Venmo feed, paying 100,000 fans a total of $250,000. Each payout showed up in the Venmo feed, acting as free advertising. Because no brand had ever paid out using Venmo, fans shared screenshots in disbelief to social media. In the end, they showed that it pays to be loyal to Chipotle.

Strategy

As the fourth most-mentioned brand on Venmo, Chipotle saw an opportunity on this emerging social platform to reach their Gen Z audience where they are. Venmo is where their target audience talks about finance—and burritos. So, Chipotle formed a partnership that would let them get into Gen Z feeds in an organic, unexpected way. Instead of paying for advertising, Chipotle decided to pay their fans so they could experience firsthand how good it feels to get rewarded. To fuel the conversation, Chipotle became the first restaurant brand to create a custom emoji. So, any time people mentioned burritos, bowls or guac, Chipotle showed up.

Execution

On March 12th, 2019, ChipotleRewardMe.com went live with a countdown timer. At 9AM PST, the site let fans enter their phone number to be rewarded on Venmo. The brand announced the new program on social media and to the press. Within 30 minutes, 25,000 people had entered their info on ChipotleRewardMe.com to be paid out on Venmo. This repeated each day through the week—rewarding 100,000 fans. As payouts rolled out, the global Venmo feed became the Chipotle feed. Each payout became free advertising for Chipotle Rewards. Since it was the first time a brand ever paid individuals on Venmo, fans and their friends immediately began flooding social media with screenshots of the payout notifications.

Outcome

The campaign drove 1 Million loyalty enrollments in the first week—with no paid advertising. Chipotle climbed to be the #1 restaurant brand in the app store.

The campaign earned over 1 billion impressions through social and PR.

Ultimately, the campaign turned an expected brand program launch into a cultural conversation and met Chipotle’s Gen Z target where they are and in a place where brands don’t advertise.

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