Chipotle had worked with Edelman, but severed the ties in October due to a large chunk of business Edelman signed that was in conflict with Chipotle from their perspective. Now they have signed B-M as their U.S. agent of record, hoping to recover from the damage done to their reputation with E. coli issues during 2015.
The communications director for the chain, Chris Arnold confirmed their meeting with Burson during the first week of March. During the meeting, they were scheduled to map out a plan dealing with their needs and priorities.
Michael Law, U.S. CEO of Burson said, “We are delighted to have been chosen by Chipotle to be their new communications partner and look forward to getting started.”
Edelman and Creative Artists Agency Los Angeles won the Grand Prix and Gold Lion at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in 2014 for their work on Chipotle’s The Scarecrow campaign.
Chipotle has been focused for several months on fixing their reputation after the E. coli scare during the fall. Implementing more than a few food-safety procedures and closing many of their locations while they trained all their employees on the new standards. During 2015 the chain experienced a significant drop in revenues, down 6.8% from the same period a year earlier, marking the first quarterly revenue drop since 2006, when the company went public. They ended 2015 with net profits down 44% and their CEO called 2015 the “most challenging period in the company’s history” during an earnings call.
While some analysts think the company will not recover from the challenges of 2015, they disagree, and so does Burson-Marsteller.
Burson-Marsteller has a long history of dealing with crises such as the one facing Chipotle currently. In fact, B-M set the gold standard for this type of work in 1982 when they helped Tylenol through the scare of their product containing poison. Like the naysayers today about Chipotle, most people in 1982 thought there was no way that Tylenol would recover, but look at where that company is today.
B-M also worked with crisis management in the cases of the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, representing Philip Morris during passive smoke litigation attacks in the 1990’s, and representing regime’s such as Argentina and Indonesia when they faced claims regarding human rights issues. They’ve not always represented the company people want to like, and still they’ve done a great job for their clients. With Chipotle, it’s a company many people really love and look forward to doing so again.