How To Make a Big Impact With Little Money - Burrito Fridays

In grad school I created a mock marketing plan for Chipotle. Through researching the company, I learned about the unique business practices that Chipotle used to make the restaurant chain so successful. I'm going through them in a weekly series of posts called Burrito Fridays. I'm in no way an expert on Chipotle, I simply see ways we can learn from the company. Grab a burrito, relax and glean.

Original photo by Javier Armendariz.

Original photo by Javier Armendariz.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems, right? I’ve found that when I have a lot of money in my pocket, I’m more prone to be flippant with it. If I had a huge food budget, I’d spend every last dime. But the smaller the food budget, the more intentional and creative I have to be. The greater the restrictions, the greater the need for thoughtfulness, intentionality and creativity. 

A few years ago, Chipotle had plenty of money it could budget for advertising. But it didn’t choose to. It’s advertising budget was smaller than typical, compared to major competitors. But - it used those few dollars intentionally, thoughtfully and creatively. Instead of making it rain everywhere, they created advertising with specific intentionality that revolved around their identity.

Chipotle understood their identity - “Food with Integrity”. They understood who would most be into that - Millennials. Logically, their relatively small advertising budget was used in ways that would appeal to Millennials. Chipotle generally doesn’t use traditional TV advertising or create campaigns around brand claims, which is wise since those methods are believed to be perceived as inauthentic by Millennials. Chipotle has positioned itself in the minds of Millennials as a champion of “Food with Integrity” through mediums Millennials engage in, such as through the YouTube video The Scarecrow and the annual Cultivate Festival.

Bottom line - You don’t have to have a ton of money to create impactful advertising. However -

  • You do have to know your business’s identity.
  • You do have to know who is into that (these types of people are likely already your customers).
  • Then you need to use your limited dollars to create advertising to clarify who your business is to people who would be into that, through mediums they use and in a way they would respect.

It requires time and effort but it is simple, logical and has worked excellently for Chipotle. Your small budget can have a big impact - it's simply in the way you use it.