Taco Bell, Chipotle adjust marketing around Cinco de Mayo amid coronavirus

Dive Brief:

  • Restaurant rivals Taco Bell and Chipotle launched campaigns around Cinco de Mayo, and both efforts reflect how the brands are adjusting their strategies for the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Taco Bell unveiled the At Home Taco Bar, a deconstructed meal kit serving six that will be available for a limited time via delivery or contactless drive-thru starting May 1. The Yum Brands chain will also share recipe cards from its secretive Test Kitchen so that quarantined consumers can make rare menu items from the past, such as the Double-Decker Taco, along with yet-to-be seen offerings and cocktails. Taco Bell will post the recipes on its blog beginning May 3.
  • Chipotle announced a TikTok activation with influencer David Dobrik. The brand is asking fans to participate in a #ChipotleSponsorMe challenge, posting videos about why Chipotle should sponsor them on the viral video app. Dobrik will review submissions on Cinco de Mayo and select five winners to receive the Celebrity Card, a card gifted to select celebrities, athletes and influencers that grants free access to Chipotle.

Dive Insight:

Taco Bell and Chipotle often market around Cinco de Mayo, but the latest efforts show how the competitors are pursuing different paths to consumer engagement as the coronavirus pandemic causes massive disruptions to the restaurant category. Both marketers are leaning into existing strengths for their brands, but adjusting their approaches in recognition that many consumers remain stuck at home and are looking for either distractions or on-demand services during lockdown.

Chipotle has used the pandemic to push even harder into promoting delivery and its mobile channels, areas of business that were booming even before the novel coronavirus hit the U.S. The company was an early adopter of TikTok, and has continued to iterate on the types of user and influencer challenges that go viral on the video platform favored among teens. Chipotle’s TikTok activation around the Super Bowl this year, which tied into the Justin Bieber single “Yummy,” drew 95 million views during the game, according to the brand.

Chipotle is, at the same time, extending its offer of free delivery on orders of $10 or more on its app or website through May 10 and as shelter-in-place orders continue. Queso Blanco, the brand’s revamped queso offering, will also be made free with orders placed on May 5. Chipotle’s digital sales grew 81% year-on-year to $372 million in Q1 2020, representing 26.3% of total sales during the quarter.

Meanwhile, Taco Bell is attempting to translate its expertise in the experiential marketing space to an at-home environment. The chain has drawn attention in recent years for outsized stunts like refurbishing an entire hotel to be themed around its brand, but those types of activations are shut off amid the pandemic.

Taco Bell is now pushing customers to create dishes and virtual celebrations of their own on Cinco de Mayo with the At-Home Taco Bar, and to share those experiences on social media through a #TacoBellCreations hashtag. The $25 meal kit comes with a variety of ingredients that accommodate everything from adventurous eaters to vegetarians, and is available for digital orders through both the Taco Bell app and third-party platform Grubhub, along with drive-thru pick-up options.

“Our food has always been a catalyst of bringing people together, and we’re finding new ways to do this from a safe distance until we can all be together again,” Melissa Friebe, SVP of brand marketing and consumer insights at Taco Bell, said in a statement.

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