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Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol says he’s making the brand visible again

Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol says he’s making the brand visible again

Niccol also wants to remind customers who have left the brand what made them fall in love with Chipotle to begin with.

“If you rewind on this business over the last three to four years, the company just went quiet and defensive,” Niccol said. “The brand just became invisible. And we are working to make it more visible.”

While Chipotle is spending about the same amount on marketing as it was in years prior, the company has been allocating those funds to television advertisements and social media engagement, Jack Hartung , chief financial officer for Chipotle, said Tuesday.

For example, Chipotle did not sponsor a college football bowl game this year, but advertised heavily during each game.

“We are taking the budget and putting it where people see it,” Hartung said.

Niccol said that going forward, the company will be more focused on national advertising campaigns rather than local campaigns.

Chipotle has already received a boost from its new advertising strategy, especially from its “For Real” campaign, which highlights the company’s 51 ingredients. The ad features the tagline “the only ingredient that’s hard to pronounce at Chipotle is ‘Chipotle.'”

It has long been a company with a simple and fixed menu. In its more than 25 years, the restaurant has only added a handful of new items or proteins.

Hartung said this trend will continue, but there will be some innovation coming down the pipeline. Items like nachos, tostadas and chocolate shakes are already in testing phases.

However, Chipotle is taking a very measured approach when it comes to rolling out these items. Dubbed “stage-gate,” Chipotle starts by introducing a new menu item to a handful of restaurants. It gets a sense of how consumers respond to it and gets feedback from their supply chain before they transition it to 80 to 100 locations. If the item fairs well in those restaurants, it will likely be launched nationally.

Niccol said the company wants to make sure it is launching new items “on its front foot,” not its back foot.

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