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Chipotle taps social in Halloween selfie contest, charity fund-raiser

Chipotle is leveraging social to engage costumed Halloween customers in a contest while raising up to $1 million for its Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

The chain’s fourth annual Boorito event offers $3 burritos, bowls, salads, tacos and kids’ meals for customers dressed in costume in support of the non-profit foundation starting at 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. The Denver-based, fast-casual chain’s nationwide restaurants will also award $2,500 for the top three costume photos uploaded to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ChipotleBooritoContest.

“This year’s costume contest adds a visual and shareable element to Boorito, and we are eager to see the creative costumes via Twitter and Instagram this Halloween,” said Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s communications director.

“The social media aspect of this year’s Boorito fundraiser is simply a way for Chipotle and our customers to enjoy the many interesting costumes and participants who join in celebrating the day.”

Photo contest
Three grand prize winners in the photo contest will win $2,500 in the respective categories for best group, scariest and most creative, while five runners-up will be chosen to receive free Chipotle catering for up to 20 people.

The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation is committed to creating a more sustainable and healthful food supply while raising awareness about revitalizing independent family farms; food, humane and responsible animal husbandry; and cooking and nutrition education.

Quick-service restaurants have been known to be among the first to adopt mobile technology since the industry is founded upon speedy processes and mobile has the ability to expedite transactions.

Chipotle’s is proving itself an adept user of mobile.

The chain enjoyed success last summer with an SMS campaign called “Adventurrito” that sought to drive traffic into its restaurants. It also achieved some notoriety for its “Scarecrow” video campaign video campaign criticizing mass-produced foods.

Earlier this year, Chipotle rolled out an original video series on Hulu with a mobile sweepstakes that leveraged SMS to engage viewers. The chain used the SMS sweepstakes to promote the series, called “Farmed and Dangerous.” Each episode featured a mobile call-to-action prompting consumers to text in unique keywords to Chipotle’s SMS database.

In February it said it would invest $10 million toward integrating mobile payments in its branded application.

The time-honored tradition of dressing up in a Halloween costume evidently appeals to today’s mobile-savvy consumers.

“When people get dressed up, I think they like to be seen,” Mr. Arnold said. “The costume contest gives them a chance to show off their costume and maybe win a prize. It’s a great way to engage with customers who are participating in the program.”

Social media provides a great outlet to engage with consumers, and vice versa.

“Boorito has existed as a promotion for much longer than four years, and we continue to do it because our customers love it,” Mr. Arnold said. “We made it a fundraiser four years ago to give it a greater purpose: to help us achieve our vision to change the way people think about and eat fast food by raising money for the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

“It’s a program that customers like and that benefits a lot of others working to create a better food culture,” he said.

Celebrating Halloween
The company is not taking out any ads to promote the contest, depending on word-of-mouth.

“Boorito is really designed for customers and many of our regulars are already very familiar with it, while others will learn about it online or in our restaurants,” Mr. Arnold said. “It’s an effort to engage with customers through a program that has become really popular. If you want to call that word-of-mouth advertising, OK.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.