How Chipotle Became The Most Followed Food Brand on TikTok

TikTok
Content & Messaging
Influencer Marketing
Brand & Positioning Strategy
January 1, 2021
Food & Beverage

Key Takeaways

Focus Allocation — TikTok: In Canada, TikTok has recently seen massive growth, with a +261% YoY increase in MAU for the month of December. TikTok users are turning to the app for content about plant based diets, with the most popular hashtag (#vegan) generating over 7 billion views globally. There is currently a white space opportunity as there are only two major plant-based food brands (Daily Harvest & Evive Smoothie) that have established a following greater than 10K on the platform. However, outside of the plant-based industry, millennial food brands have gained a significant following, with Chipotle currently at 1.4 million followers.

TikTok Tactic — Branded Hashtag Challenge: Chipotle launched a branded hashtag challenge (#ChipotleLidFlip) which generated 318 billion views worldwide. The main goal of the challenge was to raise awareness for a free delivery promotion for online orders to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Create challenges with a purpose and tie it to a business objective for the best results. Consider using trending TikTok sounds and incorporate them into your challenge - Chipotle partnered up with Justin Bieber for a Super Bowl TikTok challenge using his popular soundtrack “Yummy”. 

TikTok Tactic — Influencer Partnerships: Chipotle worked with David Dobrik to launch the #ChipotleLidFlip challenge and Loren Gray for the #GuacDance challenge. Combined, these influencers have 75M followers and Chipotle was able to leverage their following to generate brand awareness of their new promotions. If there are budget limitations, considering working with micro influencers — many TikTok creators with a small following have viral videos due to their algorithm which does not factor in the number of followers to appear in the “For You” page. TikTok duet videos are a great way to collaborate with well known creators without having to pay for sponsored content.

TikTok Tactic — Timely & Relevant Content: TikTok trends live and die overnight, what is popular today may be entirely different tomorrow. Chipotle has mastered the art of creating timely and relevant content by keeping their finger on the pulse and jumping on trends within hours of them becoming popular. The great thing about TikTok is that content does not have to be polished or professionally shot, many brands simply create content on their mobile device with minimal editing.

In Canada, TikTok has recently seen massive growth, with a +261% YoY increase in Monthly Active Users (MAU) for the month of December.

TikTok - Canada - Monthly Web Traffic - Monthly Active Users
*Geo: Canada; MAU Data is Google Play Store data only 

TikTok users are turning to the app for content about plant-based diets, with the most popular hashtag (#vegan) generating over 7 billion views globally.

TikTok - Plant-Based Diets Content

Top content categories for plant-based diets on TikTok include vegan recipes, beginner guides and “What I Eat in a Day” videos.

TikTok - Top content categories for plant-based diets
Plant Based Swaps | Vegan Recipes | Beginner Guides to Veganism | Trying Celebrity Vegan Recipes | What I Eat in a Day

There is currently a white space opportunity on TikTok as there are only two major plant based food brands (Daily Harvest & Evive Smoothie) that have established a following greater than 10K on the platform.

TikTok Follower Count - Plant Based Food Brands

Daily Harvest’s top TikTok video did not contain any specific content about plant-based products, instead it was a humorous video that encouraged people to share their daily wins.

TikTok - Tactics Used from Daily Harvest's Top 3 Videos
Create TikTok Challenges | Add an Element of Humour | Ask Your Followers to Share Content

However, outside of the plant based industry, millennial food brands have gained a significant following on TikTok. Chipotle currently is the leader with 1.4 million followers on the platform.

TikTok - Millennial Food Brands


With nearly half of Chipotle’s customer base falling into the Millennial and Gen Z age category, Chipotle has invested heavily into the TikTok platform.

TikTok - Chipotle - Millenial and Gen Z cutomers

Chipotle raises brand awareness on TikTok in 3 ways:

TikTok - 3 Ways on How Chipotle Raises Brand Awareness on TikTok

Chipotle regularly creates branded hashtag challenges, such as #ChipotleLidFlip and #GuacDance which generated 318M and 1.1B views respectively.

Branded Challenges

CHIPOTLE FANS FLIP THEIR LIDS OVER VIRAL TIKTOK CHALLENGE | Chipotle smashes TikTok records with #GuacDance challenge | Chipotle's Justin Bieber challenge reaches 95M on TikTok during Super Bowl

Branded Hashtag Challenges:

Chipotle was inspired by a real employee who was known to be great at assembling burrito bowls. The main goal of the challenge was to raise awareness for a free delivery promotion for online orders to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

In just the first six days of the challenge, 110K videos were published onto the platform, and now there are currently 388M views for #chipotlelidflip.

After the initial success of the lid flip challenge, for National Avocado Day, Chipotle created the #GuacDance challenge, which was TikTok’s highest performing branded challenge in the United States. 

Best Practice:

  • Create challenges with a purpose - tie it to an event (i.e: National Avocado Day) or a story 
  • Use trending TikTok sounds and incorporate them into your challenge. Chipotle partnered up with Justin Bieber for a Super Bowl challenge where users had to use Bieber’s song called “Yummy” to take part in the challenge

Chipotle partnered up with popular TikTok creators to promote their branded challenges, and reposts content from popular influencers to reach a broader audience.

Influencer Partnerships

@daviddobrik | @lorengray


Influencer Partnerships:

Chipotle worked with David Dobrik to launch the #ChipotleLidFlip challenge and Loren Gray for the #GuacDance challenge. Combined, these influencers have 75M followers, getting the Chipotle brand in front of millions of viewers.

Chipotle also features popular TikTok creators on their own page, they regularly post content featuring David Dobrik and other influencers such as @otakoyakisoba, and @rebelwilsontiktok

Best Practice:

  • Pick the right influencer for the right type of challenge, Chipotle strategically picked Loren Gray for the #GuacDance challenge as she is known for her viral dance videos and is one of the original influencers from musical.ly.
  • Repost UGC and work with micro influencers. Many TikTok creators with a small following have viral videos due to their algorithm which does not factor in the number of followers to appear in someone’s “For You” page.
  • TIkTok duet videos are a great way to collaborate with well known creators without having to pay for sponsored content.

Chipotle has mastered the art of creating timely and relevant content on the platform. Within a matter of hours, Chipotle was seen hopping on TikTok trends such as the Tortilla Trend and Miley Cyrus Challenge.

Timely & Relevant Content

DIY #tortillatrend Chipotle-style | @mileycyrus down?


Timely & Relevant Content:

TikTok trends live and die overnight, what is popular today may be entirely different tomorrow. It’s extremely crucial to have your finger on the pulse to act fast on various TikTok trends.

Chipotle has mastered the art of creating timely and relevant content on the platform. Within a matter of hours, Chipotle hopped on the tortilla trend, as well as the the Miley Cyrus trend where users tried to get Miley Cyrus to comment on their TikTok videos.

Best Practice:

  • Follow popular TikTok creators as they are likely to hop onto trends quickly.
  • Follow millennial brands such as Chipotle to monitor the type of content that they are producing on a weekly basis.
  • Act fast - TikTok trends can die overnight! The great thing about TikTok content is that it does not have to be polished and professionally shot, many brands simply create content on their mobile device with minimal editing. 

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