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Special Project

Special Project
From the 12th Annual Shorty Awards

Summer of Chipotle on TikTok

Audience Honor in TikTok


The goal was simple: Reach the digital savvy and food delivery obsessed Gen Z target audience to drive brand engagement and digital sales.

For Chipotle, engaging young people through its app and delivery platform is crucial. Research from The NPD Group found that Gen Z delivery orders are equal with the older, more affluent millennial category. And according to the same survey, in a relatively flat industry, digital orders are expected to triple by 2020. Further, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association found that 24% of Gen Zers order takeout three or four times in a typical week, which is more than any other generation. It is also crucial to reach this audience on mobile devices where they spend a large chunk of their lives.

The hottest way to do that in 2019 is through TikTok. Formerly known as in the U.S., the app has skyrocketed to the top of the download charts, primarily driven by fanatic Gen Z users. The most recent research puts the figure at 60% of U.S. users falling between the ages of 16 and 24-years-old. The content is quick and real - 15-second video clips of real life, often comedic moments with little to no editing. It's a mobile-only platform that users spend almost an hour engaging with every day on average.

How could Chipotle leverage TikTok’s explosive growth as the hottest mobile app of the year to engage the next generation of consumers and encourage the use of the Chipotle app through digital orders?

Strategy and Execution

A recent study confirmed many marketers’ worst fears - Gen Z dislikes almost every major form of advertising. Kantar Millward Brown found that the only form of advertising at least half of Gen Z respondents respond favorably to are cinema ads. Among Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X, only Gen Z had three (out of 13) categories of ads that garnered 25% or less percent positivity. By comparison, Gen Z more aligned with Gen X in viewing most advertising in an unfavorable light regardless of the format. This shift from Millennials relative ad acceptance creates a tough landscape for marketers. Gen Z is unlikely to respond positively to your advertising. Brands have no choice but to find a better way.

Day One’s work for Chipotle shows that better way - by integrating into the organic user experience on TikTok. It’s raw and real compared to the polish of Instagram and without a brand roadmap set-up like more established platforms, it can be a tough place for brands to enter. Day One set out to create a Summer of Chipotle on TikTok that would earn the brand a place on the emerging platform and a spot in the hearts and stomachs of Gen Z burrito fans. The effort would focus on two key summer moments fans would naturally look to Chipotle - Cinco de Mayo and National Avocado Day - and encourage engagement with the Chipotle mobile app.

Knowing that TikTok was a place of authenticity, Day One decided to engage someone the audience already trusts for each effort. According to research from Fullscreen, more than any other generation, Gen Z trusts digital creators over traditional celebrities and is more likely to buy products endorsed by them than products touted by a traditional star. The same survey found that Gen Z trusts the digital creators more than the brands they endorse.

To takeover TikTok for the summer, we crafted two tentpole campaigns for Chipotle, in addition to Chipotle’s always on activities. Chipotle launched its TikTok engagement alongside the launch of star creator, lifelong Chipotle fan and YouTube star (14 million subscribers) David Dobrik’s TikTok account to celebrate free delivery for digital orders for Cinco de Mayo with the #ChipotleLidFlip. Day One leaned into the natural behavior on TikTok by issuing a challenge that was already picking up steam. The “Lid Flip Challenge” originated with a Chipotle staffer catching the attention of burrito fans after perfecting the move while assembling burrito bowls for customers. To participate, fans just had to buy a Chipotle burrito bowl and grab their phone to record their lid flip.

The second Challenge for National Avocado Day asked guac fans to put their own spin on Dr. Jean’s viral “Banana Dance” with a gyrating tribute to guacamole on the one day guac isn’t extra at Chipotle. We seeded the #GuacDance Challenge on TikTok with creators including Brent Rivera and Loren Grey and we set another record digital sales day and with the highest performing branded challenge on TikTok in the U.S. ever.


As a result of the Summer of Chipotle on TikTok, Chipotle became one of the most followed brands on TikTok and our activations resulted in over one billion impressions and two of Chipotle’s highest digital sales days on record.


In just the first six days of the challenge, 111,000 videos were submitted to the Challenge, resulting in 104 million video views. A month later, the views on the Challenge hit 268 million. And most importantly the Challenge created a record-breaking digital sales day driving app downloads and delivery among Gen Z audience. The campaign earned millions of impressions including coverage on CNBC, Fast Company, BuzzFeed News, and The Atlantic. Youth research specialists YPulse even included it in the article “These 5 Brands’ TikTok Campaigns Went Viral With Teens.”

National Avocado Day

The Challenge generated 500 million impressions from 250k fan-submitted videos. It also created a record-breaking digital sales day for Chipotle while becoming TikTok's highest performing branded challenge to run in the U.S. ever. The chain had to hand-smash twice as many avocados as usual to meet demand. Off-platform, the Challenge garnered 1.25 billion earned media impressions including coverage on Bustle and Elite Daily, key publications among the target audience.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Day One Agency, Collab, Chipotle Mexican Grill