Chipotle Mexican Grill...as I've talked about before...does things right. They offer a great, great product, and they create buzz around their stores. I don't think I've ever seen Chipotle mass marketed. They don't need to. You can create enough buzz around a single store to make a large chain succesful.
Case and point: giving away a free burrito doesn't cost Chipotle much. I have no idea what their costs are, but I'm sure there's a lot of variation. A single burrito here and there won't kill a company.
A single burrito here and there will make a person's day. Probably their week. A story from a burrito blog:
"I purchased a burrito shirt about a month or so ago (a shirt that says I love burritos), it's very stylish. Interesting thing is though, I had never eaten a burrito while wearing it - usually a burrito just wasn't in the cards whenever I had it on.
I went into Chipotle last Saturday wearing it and placed my order for a steak burrito. When I got up to the register, the cashier told me not to worry about it.
"Huh?" was my response. She smiled and said "It's because you love burritos."
If you're going to market to college kids, to teens, to adults, to anybody, you HAVE to create buzz around your product. We don't buy stuff because we care about how well you marketed it, or even really because we want to buy it from you. We, if you haven't figured it out buy now, we buy what WE talk about.
It costs Chipotle $6.00 in opportunity cost to give away that burrito. That story is now on at least 2 websites, and I bet that guy told every burrito eater he knows.
Was it worth the 6 bucks?