Neiv Toledano is a graduate of public relations and advertising from Chapman University in Orange County. Throughout her time in university, she got to explore different fields in advertising including ad sales, PR, and social media. She eventually developed a love for food marketing.
“I was at another restaurant brand and, as a passionate foodie and restaurant reviewer, I was like ‘I need to be in food marketing. This is exactly what I want to do’. So it really worked out because my college was in Orange Country and Chipotle came to Newport beach and as a major fan, I was like, ‘I need to work at Chipotle’. And that would be my dream job. I have been here for almost three years.”
She considers her role as that of a culture hunter who drives culture and purpose through Chipotle’s social and influencer channels.
Neiv was drawn into influencer marketing when she realized how much her own purchases were influenced by social media.
“You may have heard of, ‘TikTok made me buy it’. Thing is, it is absolutely true. I think everything I’ve purchased in the past two years has been a direct recommendation from either a random user or TikTok creator, or an influencer themselves. I think everyone is just so easily influenced and having that validation is super necessary.”
Notable Campaigns and Relationships
Her first experience with a TikTok marketing campaign was in the May 2019 Chipotle Lid Flip challenge that was inspired by a Chipotle employee. To do the lid flip, you had to have a burrito bowl. It was a campaign that encouraged people to purchase.
“We’re the first restaurant brand ever to do a challenge. So we partnered with a few TikTok creators. Just in the first six days of the challenge, we had thousands of videos being submitted. It created a record breaking digital sales day and app downloads. Most importantly, we were able to resonate with Gen Z audiences for the first time.”
She considers the May 2020 Chipotle Sponsor Me challenge as one of the brand’s biggest campaigns on TikTok.
“It blew all of our engagement numbers. One of the winners, Eric, who is actually in the Chipotle Creator Class, his video got millions of likes. Even Lizzo commented ‘@Chipotle, you need to see this video’.
The campaign was so successful that it created a momentum Niev considers was central to the idea of forming the Chipotle Creator Class.
“We’ve just been seeing an influx of amazing Chipotle content that people care about and want to share. So the Chipotle Creator Class was just a great continuation of it and finding that other creator who can help contribute.”
Working with Tinx
“She is the biggest Chipotle superfan and everyone knew it. She would always tag us and share her love for Chipotle with her followers. And this year, we established an official relationship with her. And it just made sense. We put her go-to order in the app with exactly how she likes to eat it, guac on the side. We brought her to the test kitchen. We let her drop free burritos when she hits a milestone with her followers. It’s really trying to show up in unexpected ways and be a part of her life but in a way that makes sense.”
The Chipotle Creator Class
Chipotle announced its first Chipotle Creator Class in September 2021. The company invited 14 creators whose number of followers ranged from 25,000 to 7 million, Niev says.
“They are just the most authentic fans of the brand. They are going to be the first people we consider whenever we have these paid opportunities. So we decided to create this class as a way to reward and empower the creators who are already creating Chipotle content. And really allowing them to get that inside scoop on the brand and really having that relationship established so they can be the first person we go to and vice versa. We’re always looking for new influencers but at the same time, these people make sense because everybody already knows they love Chipotle and everything that they do is typically aligned.”
To pick the 15th member of the Creator Class, the company hosted the Chipotle Creator challenge on TikTok.
“The winner actually ate Chipotle in all 50 states. We don’t even have Chipotle in all 50 states. We are so excited to have him and just to create awesome content with this creator throughout the program.”
According to Niev, the class size was kept small for a reason.
“We are going to be hosting virtual brainstorming sessions where we are able to bring, you know, ideas to them or vice versa. So we wanted it to be a more intimate group and it is a pilot program. So the objective is to really test and learn and see what works. And I think these 15, it was undeniable that they had to be chosen because they were already creating content for us. So we wanted to really make sure that we can empower them and support them as they continue to do so.”
The program comes with multiple perks, Niev reveals.
“We’re bringing them to the test kitchen to be the first people to try new menu items that aren’t announced yet and also really have them to be a part of the brand in the sense of listening to what they want and what they think is cool. Because at the end of the day, creators know best.”
How Chipotle Identifies Creators to Work With
As a major brand, Niev considers Chipotle fortunate to have many Chipotle fans who also happen to be top brand creators. Still, Chipotle looks at several factors when choosing the creators it wants to work with.
“The number one being a genuine fan. And then number two making sure that our purposes and missions are always aligned.”
Gauging a creator’s enthusiasm on each campaign is important too.
“Being able to sense excitement is a really big part. So when you’re on call with their team or you know, on a Zoom, if someone is not super excited or it’s starting to feel like a force, you just need to trust your gut.”
Social listening is a crucial part of finding new creators.
“We have an awesome social listening team. Our social team and our agency partners, we’re always keeping our eyes out for people who are mentioning Chipotle, are tagging us, creating awesome content. And then through that, that’s how we can really find the next person we want to nurture, or gift, or work with in a paid form.”
Her biggest fear is having a post that seems too sponsored or too much like an ad.
“If you are working with someone and they’ve never talked about Chipotle, their audience will be like, ‘Why are they getting a sandwich at Chipotle? I’ve never seen this’. It’s very easy to look like a sellout nowadays.”
Whereas Chipotle mainly works with mid to macro creators, Niev says numbers are not everything since the brand’s influencer marketing strategy is centered on supercharging the super fan.
Neiv Toledano shares Influencer Marketing Advice for Brands
Neiv advises brands to trust creators and take their points of view seriously.
“A lot of times we’re working on a campaign and we’re all sitting in a room and we’re like ‘Oh my God, we should have this person do that’. And then you get on the phone with the creator and they’re like, ‘Why don’t we do this instead’. And we are like ‘Wow. That idea is so much better and stronger’. I think creators know what they’re doing, they know their audience. So really trust them and be collaborative. They are the experts.”
It is on TikTok that Niev has experienced the most success working with influencers. She is quick to point out however the need to vary campaign strategy by marketing channel and content type.
“TikTok is just such a fun platform and there’s so many different trends that you can align to. And the short video format really captures people’s intention. So a lot of the work that we do with digital creators is on TikTok. I think Instagram is really great for new menu items and for some of our Chipotle challenger series, things that are more real time.”
Niev has a new campaign coming up.
“It is for our new menu items. Smoked brisket that we just announced today. So stay tuned.”
Neiv Toledano is Senior Social Media Strategist at Chipotle Mexican Grill. She joined Chipotle straight out of university. Neiv manages the company’s day-to-day social media presence. This includes the TikTok debut that saw Chipotle become the first restaurant brand to realize one million followers on the platform. She’s brought social media campaigns involving Miley Cyrus and bitcoin to life leading to billions of impressions. Neiv has a degree in public relations and advertising from Chapman University. She lives in Newport Beach, CA.