Between its E. coli and norovirus outbreaks impacting foot traffic and store sales, to its chief creative and development officer Mark Crumpacker being indicted in June as part of a New York cocaine bust, it's been a rough year for Chipotle. But a new ad campaign is the beginning of Chipotle's attempt to turn things around, drive more traffic into restaurants and gain back consumer trust.
When asked about the brand's rough year, Crumpacker, who was reinstated to his position at Chipotle this month and faces a hearing on Oct. 18 for the drug charges, said, "That's an understatement. I'm glad to be back, and I hope this is resolved in a positive way. Since it's not resolved, I probably shouldn't talk too much about it."
But he did discuss how Chipotle's new ad campaign, "Ingredients Reign," created with GSD&M and animation studio HouseSpecial, is a bid to help win back loyal customers and reverse the brand's sales slump.
Like Chipotle's videos of the past, "Back to the Start," "The Scarecrow" and "Love Story," the new ads offer an animated take on the brand's focus on locally sourced, carefully selected ingredients. In this case, the premise is a little more whimsical: Cartoon food gets the royal treatment, with beans riding in a gilded carriage, a tomato being fanned on a chaise lounge and a pepper relaxing in a bathtub.
"People really want to hear positive news from and about Chipotle," Crumpacker said. "For both 'Love Story,' and these spots, our research showed that the vast majority of people who saw them felt increased trust for Chipotle. For 'Ingredients Reign,' 72 percent of people who saw the videos saw increased trust for the brand."
"They're going to continue to talk about what they do best, which is focus on the ingredients and the food," said Jay Russell, chief creative officer at GSD&M. "A lot of times, when you're talking about better ingredients or no additives, it's boring. Chipotle always makes it entertaining, and it's what makes them stand out."
In September, Chipotle also launched a food safety campaign, with newspaper ads and a video with founder and co-CEO Steve Ells explaining its food safety advancements.
"We want to get back to talking about what's built the brand, and it seems to be working," Crumpacker said. "We've seen more positive stories in the press, and we've seen more positive sentiment on social. Knock on wood, we've turned a corner in terms of sentiment toward the brand. Hopefully we're rebuilding some of the trust that's been lost."