Chipotle’s Latest Recovery Strategy? Comedic Ads

It’s safe to say that 2016 wasn’t an easy year for Chipotle. The brand has struggled to make a slow recovery following its food safety crisis.

In its latest ad, the fast casual chain is introducing a comedic approach. The campaign is dubbed “As Real as It Gets,” where four comedians do mini skits promoting “realness.”

“The ad campaign, which features comedians like John Mulaney and a voiceover performance by actor Jeffrey Tambor, shows three comedians separately stepping into a massive burrito where "everything is real." The comedians tell jokes, talk about their fictional husbands, and are essentially not acting real. Tambor (never seen in the spot) says they should be more "real" like Chipotle,” writes “Fortune.” 

The brand is hoping to entertain, yet remind guests that Chipotle is still the genuine restaurant chain they knew and loved. 

"We've always been a brand that has had a well-developed voice and a lot of that is based on humor," said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle to “Fortune.” We have created these ads to reinforce the brand’s personality." 

These media buys are the largest the fast casual chain has ever made and majority of the ads will be placed on national TV spots. This year, the brand is spending 3% on marketing, which is a jump from the former 1.5%.

The food-safety crisis, which started in the fall of 2015, caused Chipotle’s sales to drop 13% in 2016. Since then, the brand’s executives and marketing team have been transparent about their challenge to change the recent negative connotation of the brand. 

“During the events of late 2015 and 2016, our carefully crafted brand narrative was unfortunately replaced with talk about food safety," said Crumpacker to “Fortune.” When customers talk about Chipotle, it is easy for them to say 'Oh yeah, did you hear about the food safety issues?' It is important as a brand to replace that narrative with our intended brand narrative." 

Besides offering massive free promotions in 2016 and ramping up its loyalty program to try to win back its customers, the brand announced this year that there are no added colors, flavors or preservatives in any of Chipotle’s food offerings, specifically in the tortillas. 

Do you think this is a clever move by the content marketing king? Is this the secret sauce in the recipe to recovery? Or does the brand still have ways to go?

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