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Ignoring The Internet Cheese

By: Darrin Duber-Smith


In our ongoing quest to transform what we learn through social media about attitudes towards our products into some form of actionable marketing strategy, we marketers have a tendency to overreact when we hear something negative. And when it comes to Chipotle, there is a lot to hear.


Image result for chipotle


The chain recently added queso, a Tex-Mex cheese dip featured by rival Qdoba, in an effort to add some excitement to a brand that has lost quite a bit of luster. And of course, several unhappy customers took to social media to bash the decision; but don't expect Chipotle to change its mind any time soon. In fact, marketers are doubling down. The company considers these naysayers to be outliers and therefore not representative of the chain's customer base, and they are probably correct.


Image result for chipotle queso memes


Despite the online vitriol, the company points out that internal research reveals overall satisfaction with the new the cheese, which is prepared with what the company says are higher quality ingredients than the Velveeta commonly found in queso. This quality focus is consistent with Chipotle's traditional strategic positioning on quality ingredients, and so marketers clearly aim to grab market share from Qdoba by offering a high quality queso in the marketplace.


Image result for chipotle queso


And apparently queso will play a central role in the company's largest-ever advertising campaign, which begins this week. Chipotle marketers, who have always eschewed traditional media in favor of the social variety, have been forced to embrace more traditional tactics. Perhaps this is an opportunity for a brand often accused of "hubris" to show a modicum of humility in its messaging. Maybe the brand will make fun of itself instead of making the usual sanctimonious jabs at competitors and "Big Food". But it probably won't. Either way, this is an unprecedented push for a brand that has enjoyed success largely by nurturing a loyal following that generates positive word-of-mouth. Now the marketers at Chipotle will have to try a bit harder.