Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are Chipotle Leading the Way with Retail Incentives?

Gifting incentives in the retail industry are fast becoming standard practice throughout different brands and retailers. Loyal customers are rewarded for their allegiance to the brand with incentives such as ‘buy 9 and get the tenth free’. In hindsight when the free purchase is reached, it is just a 10% discount for each purchase and for me a scheme like that won’t make me desperate to get to my 10th purchase. So then what really can be deemed as a real incentive for the customer? Chipotle reward their customers in a completely different manner to most.

Chipotle as a brand are known for their powerful marketing campaigns that reach out to consumers in order to educate the customer on issues in farming. Chipotle’s ethos and values were imprinted in their adverts that drew attention to farm animals being injected with hormones and unethical, inhumane farming practices that are cruel to the animals. Chipotle want to educate their customers and enlighten them to these issues and thus reward them for their learning.

At first I was skeptical. My first thought was how can a customer prove they have learnt about the issues whilst trying to get their reward? However, Chipotle have ways of letting customers show they are engaging with their values. For example recently they had a promotion that let customers purchase a tofu burrito and that would allow them to use the receipt of purchase for a free purchase at a later stage. This helps push Chipotle’s belief that tofu can be as good as pork, chicken or beef. Another huge reward scheme is their interactive Scarecrow game.

Photo Credit: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock
Chipotle started their education through their advertising campaigns which included slogans such as ‘‘we’re anti-antibiotics (but pro-chicken)’, but then shortly after took the world by storm with short videos such as ‘Back to the Start’ and ‘Scarecrow’. Scarecrow comes with a game that encourages sustainable farming and gaining points in it wins the player Chipotle products. By gaining points shows customers engaging with the Chipotle values embedded in the game regarding unsustainable farming issues. Another game scheme they have is ‘Farm Team’ that again teaches customers where Chipotle’s produce comes from and educates them on sustainable farming.

In the near future will other companies use a different approach in rewarding their customers that goes against the usual rewards, such as getting a thousand subpoints and get a free subway? Ultimately will educating consumers be more of an incentive than buying a certain number of products and getting a free one at the end?

Personally I think the majority of consumers will prefer to feel that they may be helping a bigger issue. I believe major brands could incorporate educational retail rewards and incentives into schemes they may have already. I believe promoting sustainable practices could boost customer loyalty in many fields. Clothes outlets could promote issues such as sweatshop labour and coffee shops could help to promote fair trade coffee. I think incentives through rewards are a very clever ploy and should be incorporated more in the retail world.

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at

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