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El Pollo Loco began focusing more on social media marketing last year with the goal of reaching younger consumers.

How TikTok helped drive El Pollo Loco’s most successful LTO in 40 years

El Pollo Loco’s ‘Dip N Drip’ campaign on TikTok, promoting its shredded beef birria, helped drive an 8.5% sales increase.

El Pollo Loco has been focused on enhancing its digital and social media presence for the past few quarters and during the company’s Q3 2022 earnings call last November, CEO Larry Roberts said that the company is “particularly focused on the use of TikTok.”

A quarter prior, he said creating new and unique content across all major social media channels, “with a special emphasis on TikTok,” allows the company to send targeted messages to a variety of user groups, “particularly our younger consumer base.” The company’s first mention of its TikTok strategy came during its Q1 2022 call, in May 2022, when Roberts noted an increase in marketing spend on social media, once again with a focus on reaching younger consumers.

We’re now starting to get a better idea of how that strategy is working. TikTok for Business recently published a case study about the chain’s limited-time shredded beef birria promotion, initially launched in 2022. In addition to paid and organic promotions, El Pollo Loco also enlisted 10 TikTok creators through marketing partner, Influential, to try the new items and share their authentic experiences with the hashtag #DipNDrip.

El Pollo Loco also boosted the creators’ videos as Spark Ads in feeds with a goal of optimizing awareness and reach, then used the platform’s geotargeting function to specifically reach users in cities where the brand has a presence.

“We really felt like birria was going to appeal to a younger customer base, and it was a great opportunity for us to bring younger consumers into the brand, and so we really focused, especially on TikTok,” Roberts said in May 2022.

Within the first several weeks of the campaign, El Pollo Loco crossed 125,000 followers on TikTok. A year later, the company now has nearly 153,000 followers.

To get a better sense of the platform’s impact, El Pollo Loco did a soft launch of its birria product “four or five days” before it did anything on social media or TV. It was mixing around 1.5%.

El_Pollo_Loco_Dip_N_Drop.jpeg“We then went on TikTok, in that day, that mix went up to 8.5% –just by TikTok. So it's a phenomenal platform for us, but it just really caught on – so that you can call it going viral … That alone really grew it,” Roberts said.

According to the company, the #DipNDrip campaign has since driven El Pollo Loco’s most successful limited-time offer in 40 years. It generated over 16.4 million video views on TikTok and, importantly, an 8.5% sales lift.   

“The success of shredded beef birria in its first year on the El Pollo Loco menu was due in large part to the ‘Dip N Drip’ campaign on TikTok. The unprecedented level of engagement and user generated content we saw on the platform inspired many to want to experience birria and raised the bar for how El Pollo Loco shows up on TikTok,” Patrick Benson, director of digital, social and PR, said in the case study.

The company brought back its shredded beef birria in April for a limited time.  

Notably, shredded beef birria isn’t the only success story El Pollo Loco has had with TikTok. During the company’s Q4 call in March, Roberts said its overstuffed quesadilla promotion achieved a mix of almost 7% in total sales, and its success is “at least partially due to the continued use of TikTok to reach younger consumers, which achieved over 10 million views during the module.”

Of course, El Pollo Loco is also not the only restaurant brand that has found traction with TikTok. Chipotle’s launch of fajita quesadilla creations from TikTok creators Keith Lee and Alexis Frost, for instance, generated two of the company’s top digital sales day of all time.

Even smaller brands are feeling a strong tailwind from the platform. According to Capterra’s 2022 TikTok Marketing Survey, conducted in November and released in January, 78% of small businesses say TikTok ads drive profits — mostly in the first six months. In a statement, Molly Burke, senior retail analyst at Capterra, said users like TikTok because its content feels authentic and “unfussy – videos made by real people, for real people.”

Such authenticity has become the sweet spot for winning over the coveted Gen Z demographic. In fact, social media overall is usually the first place Gen Z consumers interact with brands, according to Robert Byrne, director of consumer and industry insights at Technomic, because much of the content is organic and “therefore more trustworthy.”

This is important because the demographic makes up nearly 70 million Americans, or about 20% of the U.S. population, and has amassed $360 billion in disposable income.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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