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Chipotle continues winning streak of text-to-win campaigns with MLS partnership

Chipotle Mexican Grill is continuing its tried-and-true method of SMS-based promotions by offering consumers a chance to win a trip to Denver for AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star Week to kick off the new partnership.

Chipotle’s partnership positions the brand as the official fast-casual Mexican dining chain of MLS, a strategy that showcases the value that the restaurant marketer places on cross-partnerships. Consumers interested in winning the grand prize trip for four to the Colorado capital may text the word “Homegrown” to a designated number through July 5.

“As a standalone, no, it is not optimal, but SMS can be a great tactic when it sits within a comprehensive and multichannel strategy, which is how Chipotle is leveraging it here,” said James McNally, director of business development at Fuzz Productions, Brooklyn, NY. “For a very specific, in-the-moment action (a simple contest entry), SMS is a fine platform for connecting – although ‘connecting’ is a bit of a stretch here – getting a fan to text a code to a number is not really ‘connecting.’

“To state the obvious, the actual sending of a text message is pretty light in terms of ‘connecting’ with a fan – the actual connection and engagement come afterwards with follow-ups and other adjacent channels.”

Familiar strategy
Chipotle has previously offered SMS-based contests to its customers, proving that the tactic works well for the brand and is able to reach a wide variety of consumers on their mobile devices.

“We have found that customers do enjoy the variety of our text-to-win campaigns, as they have offered unique, once-in-a-lifetime trips and prizes with a simple entry process,” said Danielle Winslow, a spokeswoman for Chipotle Mexican Grill, Denver, CO. “Mobile strategy has become a major platform for many companies today to reach and engage with their customers.”

From now through July 5, Chipotle fans may text “Homegrown” to 888222 for an entry into the sweepstakes, which awards one winner a trip for four to Denver, including business class round-trip airline tickets, a four-night hotel stay, four premium tickets to the Chipotle-sponsored MLS Homegrown Game on July 28 and an additional four premium tickets to the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.

Pre-game field passes will also be included, as well as a $650 stipend for a full-size car rental for the trip and $5,000 spending money.

Consumers seeking more information may visit

“SMS overall is a great tactic when used correctly,” Mr. McNally said. “Asking fans to enter a contest via SMS is a perfectly valid use of the medium – it’s a simple, one-time action.

“What becomes less ideal is maintaining the dialogue between brand and fan through SMS beyond that initial action,” he said. “The text client is a ‘personal’ space – it’s where parents, significant others, friends, etc. reach us.

“No surprise that brands want in, but the risk of alienating fans is extremely high. One badly-timed offer for free chips and guacamole, and you’ve now annoyed an otherwise perfectly happy fan.

“The ‘classic’ approach is to get users to provide their mobile number for subsequent marketing messaging, and if Chipotle wants to engage users via SMS after the contest, it needs to do so very carefully and tactfully.”

This past April, Chipotle offered fitness enthusiasts the chance to win round-trip airfare and first-class accommodations for the Tough Mudder challenge in Australia, as well as a year’s worth of free burritos, via a text-to-win campaign, serving as a reflection of how cross-marketing can add new life to SMS promotions (see story).

Reliance on SMS
Chipotle’s reliance on the SMS strategy has worked well for the brand in the past, although it must ensure that it places high importance on offering loyalty perks back to customers to retain its fan base.

The ease of texting a short word to a designated number suggests many individuals will take the plunge and enter the campaign, which then offers invaluable data back to the marketer.

“Text is suitable for quick, one-time interactions (e.g. contest entry),” Mr. McNally said. “What brands should focus on for longer term engagement are things like loyalty and offering special perks to good customers.

“Those are more nuanced and complex to deliver, and SMS is not ideal – brands with that longer term and more serious engagement mindset need to focus on truly creating a channel or experience on mobile that they own, control, and tailor to their brand identity and messaging,” he said.

“In other words, mobile apps.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York