Chipotle CEO Says Brand Has Been 'Invisible'

Oh boy, sounds like there are going to be some drastic changes in the marketing approach at Mexican food chain Chipotle.

Earlier this week, the brand’s new CEO Brian Niccol told analysts and investors on a quarterly earnings call that he believed the brand has been “invisible” from a consumer standpoint.

That’s not what the ad agency working for a client wants to hear, right? I mean the agency’s job is to create just the opposite effect, making a brand highly visible to consumers.

It’s no secret that Chipotle is under new management. Niccol joined as CEO last month—he was previously with Taco Bell, where he’s credited with turning things around — and then hired Chris Brandt, also a Taco Bell alum, as CMO.

It was just last year that Chipotle hired new agencies — Venables Bell & Partners for creative advertising and MullenLowe Mediahub for media duties.



It was the old regime of course that did the hiring. And, as we all know, new brooms tend to sweep clean.

That said, Chipotle has had problems that the best marketing and advertising programs can’t cure, including a number of e coli outbreaks that have made lots of people very sick.

And — full disclosure — including me!

The chain’s last major e coli-related debacle happened a little over two years ago. But apparently it’s still having an impact on sales. Last month, Business Insider reported on a survey that found 26% of respondents cited food safety as the main reason they were eating at the food chain less often.

My little bout of Chipotle food poisoning (I was flat on my back in bed for days) dates to a prior e coli scare. There’s been more than one. To this day, I walk past a Chipotle and my pace quickens.

And by the way, Messrs. Niccol and Brandt, Venables and Mediahub are two of the best creative and media shops, respectively, in the business. My advice — have some cojones and don’t scapegoat them. Work with them to see if you can make the same kind of magic you made at Taco Bell.

That is, of course, unless you’ve already decided to cut them loose.

As for me, I’ll never darken the door of one of your establishments again. As you probably know, e coli has been known to kill.


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