Chipotle image

Chipotle's Risky Business

I love a good burrito. I also love a good PR/social media strategy. Last week, Chipotle delivered on only one of those (hint: it was wrapped in aluminum foil.)

On July 21, Chipotle staged the hacking of its company’s Twitter account @ChipotleTweets. A risky PR move for any company, particularly one with such strong brand loyalty. What ensued, was a series of odd posts that clearly strayed from the burrito loving company’s regular tweets. Examples include:

· “Hit send too soon!”

· “twitter Find avocado store in Arv”

· “Do I have a tweet?”

· “Twitter friends search bar”

During the faux hacking, Chipotle’s Twitter amassed 4,000 new followers (they normally average 250 new ones a day.) And you couldn’t tune in to the news without seeing or hearing about the stunt. So in the end, was it worth fooling its fans for? Did the PR risk warrant the reward?

When Chipotle officially confirmed that the hacking was in fact not real, it also stated the reason for its trickery. The stunt was part of its anniversary celebration, and a 20-day treasure hunt and puzzle series called “Adventurito.” As part of this, Chipotle had inserted clues into its hacked tweets on July 21. True to character, the company was having fun and being lighthearted with its brand on Twitter.

Despite its transparency after the fact, Chipotle received an outcry of complaints criticizing the company for deceiving the public. Others complained that for a mere 4,000 followers, and most of them likely unengaged with the brand, it just wasn’t worth it. Chipotle quickly responded with a transparent and honest response.

“For people to feel like it was misleading somehow, or undermines trust, we certainly apologize. It wasn’t our intention,” said Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s communications manager.

Arnold also went on to state the purpose of the stunt was not to attract additional followers.

For those who love the brand (and burritos), the stunt probably won’t do much to affect sentiment either way. But for others, they’re going to think twice about frequenting – or following – a company that cried wolf and pulled the wool over our eyes.

It’s because of this and the fact that social media is supposed to be one of the most transparent and real mediums for a brand to speak through, the PR risk should have set off red flags with the internal team long before any rogue tweets found their way online. Despite promptly coming clean and apologizing once there was public backlash, Chipotle still needs to spend its efforts on re-engaging its social media followers in positive, rewarding banter over the next few months to make up for “Adventurito.” Can we say free chips and salsa anyone?

In the end, Chipotle could have prevented this by taking a little advice from Oreo, a ‘girl next door’ type of brand, who tells the truth and watches the Super Bowl with you even when the lights go out on the game.

Tell us how you feel about the whole debacle!