Chipotle email campaign introduces customers to their 'food twins' 

Restaurant chain Chipotle informed loyalty members when they have a food-order doppelgänger, and delivered $4.8m in revenue

Chipotle uses its Chipotle Rewards Loyalty Program to engage with its fans and share offers based on order history and content preferences. But when it comes to emails, it’s hard to get people to pay the slightest interest – according to agency Gale, New York, prevailing research shows that most of us receive about 150 emails a day and that half are deleted without even being read.

In March 2023, the brand created an email marketing campaign so intriguing, its loyalty members would simply have to engage with it. Working from the insight that its Chipotle Rewards Loyalty Program members take particular pride in the specificity of their orders, Chipotle and Gale created the Chipotle Doppelgänger campaign, to show people that however unique they think their Chipotle order is, there is someone else out there ordering the very same.

Harnessing Chipotle’s nationwide transactional data, the brand identified when two people ordered the exact same thing within two minutes of each other at different restaurants and sent both customers a Chipotle Doppelgänger email highlighting the strange serendipity.

The email didn’t contain any personally identifiable information, just the time and date of the Doppelgänger match, the restaurant where the order was placed, and a listing of the customised ingredients. The orders had to match eight or more menu ‘customisations’ – this meant a typical chicken burrito with white rice didn’t create a Doppelgänger match.

Results / In just the first four weeks, the brand sent 466,000 Doppelgänger emails, with the open rate 44% above benchmark, while the click rate for the triggered emails was 176% above benchmark. The people who received the emails delivered $4.8m in revenue. The campaign won Gold in Creative Data at the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity 2023.

Contagious Insight 

You had me at hello / In March 2022, according to Restaurant Business Online, Chipotle had 27 million customers in its Loyalty Program, up from 8 million in 2019. Impressive growth, but what’s the point in having all that customer data if they are going to ignore your brand’s marketing missives? Here, the brand found a way to surprise and delight its fans, and even sparked many to share the marketing email on their social media. The key here is the brand understands its Loyalty Program members – data on them inspired the insight behind the campaign. Gale ECD Jason McCann told Contagious: ‘One reason why we loved this idea was that it was genuinely unexpected. Essentially people saw the same info as a receipt – the time and location of their order, plus their specific ingredients, which people can also order on a T-shirt from the Chipotle Goods store. Doppelgänger just packaged up this same data in an unexpected way.’

Two-way street / Part of the goal of the campaign was that the Doppelgänger email would get shared on social. This aligns with the brand’s strategy when it comes to culture and the likes of TikTok. When we spoke with Chris Brandt, CMO at Chipotle Mexican Grill, in 2021 for our Brand Spotlight, he said: ‘We want to be on those platforms that are really relevant to people, but we want to be there in the right way. One of my number one rules of marketing is “Don’t be lame”. When you look like you don’t understand it, you’ve lost all credibility.’ As the results bear out, Chipotle Doppelgänger most definitely understands ‘it’. McCann told us: ‘Chipotle has earned a special place in culture. From a fajita quesadilla popularised by a TikTok star to playfully acknowledging guests borrow Tabasco sauce bottles, their social channels are a constant, two-way dialogue that can get pretty spicy. We felt Dopplegänger was right on tone, and a perfect fit for fans of the brand.’ 

Double take / There is a long-held fascination with doppelgängers, notably explored in Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1846 novel The Double, and more recently Jose Saramango’s 2003 book of the same name. As Eva Wiseman notes, the idea ‘swims regularly in and out of popular culture, mirroring, revealing, bringing varying degrees of discomfort’. The notion that there is an identical counterpart somewhere out there is deeply compelling, and ideal fodder for an ad campaign to have some fun with. Chipotle harnesses this human interest in our ‘selves’ to great effect, giving its Loyalty Program members an undeniably compelling reason to engage with an all-too-easy-to-ignore marketing email. The strategy clearly worked, and while it could easily have wound people up the wrong way, the spartan text and omission of actual customer data ensured that people enjoyed the serendipitous revelation that they had a food twin, and more importantly, enjoyed it so much actually spent more money at Chipotle

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