Do you remember the first time you ate Taco Bell? Like it or hate it, most of us have eaten there before, at least once. For decades, Taco Bell dominated the fast-food Mexican cuisine space. There was no competition on a national level. That is until Chipotle began serving up hot competition.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., founded in Denver in 1993, slowly built a strong customer base across the United States. Although it hasn’t been all uphill for chipotle, they’ve been taking a slice out of the fast-food market, particularly since 2016, as they’ve seen growth and increased customer loyalty continuously. So much so, that in 2018 Taco Bell CEO, Steve Ellis, left the company and became the new CEO of Chipotle.
How has Chipotle managed to take a bite out of the market?
As detailed in the Lane Jones Brandview Framework, an effective brand strategy helps a company stand out. This is exactly what Chipotle has done. So that as they’ve grown, they aren’t even competing with a household name such as Taco Bell. Instead, they stand alone for who they are and the food they make.
Their approach centers around quality. It would be hard, if not impossible, to compete with chains like Taco Bell on price. But they don’t try to compete. Instead, they set themselves apart. Chipotle brands themselves as higher quality. They also added personality to their branding. Their marketing material and brand collateral (such as their cups and food containers) feature clever jokes and relatable messages. They do this by understanding who their customer is and how to communicate with them.
Their visuals, advertisements, social media efforts all connect with their customer base. And through connection, their base builds and becomes even more loyal.
This is the goal of your branding: connection. If you recall from the Brandview Framework, branding is your opportunity to build connection and resonance with your ideal customers.
How can you apply this to your branding?
The best approach is to first analyze your business and brand strategy to see if/where you’re differentiating yourself in the market.
Here are questions to get you thinking (and taking action) to Level Up your brand:
What steps do you take to build connection with your customers? The reason connection is so important is because this is what builds trust, likability, and engagement with your potential, current, and past customers. An effective brand strategy includes regular messaging, visuals, and campaigns that build and reinforce connection.
What’s your brand personality? Is it being reflected in your branding? The branding archetype model is a solid foundation you can use to shape your brand personality. I’ve created an entire series of articles on branding archetypes if you’re unfamiliar with this model.
How does your brand stand out in the market? What distinguishes your company from the market? Again, the brand archetype model will help with this. This is about building a presence in the market so you become known, respected, and identified for what sets you apart.
What can you do to Level Up? Branding isn’t t a one-off deal. You don’t do it and you’re finished. It’s a continual process. A journey. You reassess, listen to your customers and clients, assess the market changes, ensure you are staying in line with your vision and mission, and make changes as needed.
This continual process of Leveling up might seem like endless effort. But taking this process approach allows you to grow with your audience. This way you don’t stay stuck and get stagnant, as some companies do in the marketplace.
We can learn a lot from Chipotle’s growth. Their branding and strategy separate them in the marketplace, so they don’t even have competition. They stand on their own. This is branding done well. They’ve also changed things up over the years to meet their customers where they are. This is connectedness at its best. What will you do to create a strategy that best connects you with your customers?