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Chipotle cultivates brand message with festivals

Chipotle cultivates brand message with festivals

Co-CEO Steve Ells says fourth annual Cultivate Festival builds on marketing efforts

Chipotle Mexican Grill will hold its Cultivate Festival in Dallas-Fort Worth area for the first time on on Oct. 18, building on its message of sustainable and healthful food with a free daylong celebration of celebrity chefs, educational exhibits, local vendors and music.

“This event was always meant to be something that travels around the United States,” said Scott Robinson, manager of national events for Denver-based Chipotle.

The Cultivate Festival is in its fourth year and has been held in Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Minneapolis so far. The coming festival on Oct. 18 is the ninth event.

Dallas was among the five cities chosen for the festival, Robinson said, because “it’s a very strong Chipotle market. And it’s a growing Chipotle market.”

With between 20,000 and 30,000 attendees at each event, Robinson said the company has found that a large share participate in at least four of the five educational exhibits, which feature Chipotle’s short films on food and the environment, the company’s use of “responsibly raised” pigs, fresh versus processed food, information on GMOs and scratch-made guacamole.

Hear more from Robinson about the festival >>

Chipotle incentivizes attendance at the educational exhibits by offering stamps at each. When attendees get four or five stamps, they earn a card for a free burrito, bowl, salad or tacos at a Chipotle restaurant.

“We get almost 70 percent participation,” Robinson added. “That means 70 percent of roughly 25,000 people are coming to four out of five of the experiences.” That starts conversations and engages customers with the brand’s message, he added.

Chipotle co-chief executive Steve Ells said in a July 21 second-quarter earnings call that the company’s Cultivate Festival and short films are part of a marketing program that looks “to draw people into the conversation about food and where it comes from in a way that makes them more curious about the food they eat.”

Ells added that Chipotle’s research showed that “an overwhelming majority” of attendees would attend the Cultivate events again.

“As part of our larger marketing program, which also includes traditional advertising and local market programs, this approach is helping us build our brand in a more unusual way than traditional fast-food formula which relied heavily on price promotions, limited time offers and other gimmicks to bring customers in,” Ells said.

“We believe that our approach to marketing helps us build a deeper relationships and loyalty with our customers rather than just driving transactions in the short-term,” he added.

The Cultivate Festival also amplifies Chipotle’s traditional advertising, Ells said, which is “focused on communicating the use of better quality, responsibly raised ingredients that are prepared with care.”

Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold said in a statement that “Cultivate allows attendees to interact with chefs, farmers and vendors — all while sampling foods exclusive to the festival.”

The event also features food — an added charge for between $5 and $7 — from ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, Chipotle’s eight-unit concept in California, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

“Dallas is home to the South’s first Chipotle restaurant, which opened more than 15 years ago,” Arnold said. “Its vibrant food and artisan community offers a solid foundation for an event like Cultivate that celebrates great local and artisanal foods while helping people understand how food should be raised and prepared.”

Chipotle, which debuted in 1993, has more than 1,700 restaurants. The company is also an investor in the two-unit Pizzeria Locale concept.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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