Chipotle’s Neiv Toledano on their partnership with ‘Corn Kid’
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“What do you like about corn?” 🌽
This was the question that kicked off the internet-wide spread of a video featuring a seven-year-old kid, Tariq—also known on the socials as Corn Kid. The video, posted by Recess Therapy, showcases an enthusiastic Tariq professing his love for corn on the cob. In the video, Tariq shared that ever since someone told him that corn was, in fact, a thing, it tasted so good. Thus, his love and relationship with corn began. The video, which now has over 28 million views on Instagram, 1 million views on TikTok, and 5.2 million views on YouTube, eventually made its way to the social media team at Chipotle.
The beloved restaurant brand, where the guac is extra, has had a history of creating viral moments to build community and be the point of conversation amongst fans and customers on social media. Earlier this year, they changed their Twitter name to “Chicotle” after a video surfaced of Jeon Jungkook, a member of the K-pop band BTS, mispronouncing “Chipotle”. To honor Nurses Week, this past April, they hosted a social media giveaway and gave away free Chipotle for a year to 2000 healthcare workers. Most recently, they announced their campaign for National Avocado Day—the #GuacDance TikTok Challenge—which resulted in over 250,000 video submissions and over 1.1 billion video views. Whether reactive or proactive, Chipotle’s approach to maintaining cultural relevancy on social media is one to watch.
This time, they partnered with the corn-loving kid to produce a short-form video for their social media channels, which is now their highest-performing social media content. It features Tariq ordering a bowl inside a Chipotle, passing over all of the ingredients the restaurant has to offer until he gets to (you guessed it) corn. The video became a hit online, garnering press and re-posts by major media outlets. Even E! News described it as the “collab of the year.” With almost 90 million views of the video across Instagram and TikTok, Chipotle has become the perfect example of how to harness the power of online conversation and partner with creators to develop meaningful content.
…and truthfully, I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing.
Q&A With Chipotle’s Social Media Manager
I reached out to Team Chipotle to learn more about how they brought this content to life and how they went about building a partnership with Corn Kid. Neiv Toledano, the Social Media Manager at Chipotle, joined the brand in 2019 and focuses on making the brand more visible and relevant to the Gen-Z community. I asked her to spill the tea.
Q: How did the idea for the Corn Kid video come to life?
A: During the week of August 22, Corn Kid took off on TikTok. Both our fans on social and marketing team members were tagging us and saying we had to do something with Tariq. Brands were trying to find ways to insert themselves into the conversation, but we knew if we were going to be part of this moment, we wanted to feature Tariq with our real corn inside a Chipotle restaurant.
Q: How did you go about approaching Corn Kid?
A: After we saw Tariq join Cameo, we reached out to our contacts there, who connected us with him.
Q: It seems that the Chipotle marketing team was able to pull this collaboration together rather quickly. Were there any challenges? How long did it take to pull this campaign together?
A: The biggest challenge was executing this fast enough to be a part of the cultural conversation. We have a small and nimble team that was able to get an influencer agreement signed and have Tariq appear at one of our Queens, NY restaurants for a production day in 17 hours.
Q: The people are going to want to know. What was it like working with Corn Kid?
A: Tariq was a joy to work with. He’s an incredibly polite and positive kid who kept everyone smiling on set.
Q: What’s next in your relationship with Corn Kid? Are there plans to work with him in the future?
A: We don’t have any plans at the moment, but the door is always open for more collaborations with Tariq — especially since he is an authentic Chipotle fan.
Q: What advice do you have for influencers and creators wanting to partner with global brands like Chipotle?
A: We only work with genuine fans of Chipotle, so it’s important for creators to showcase their brand fandom in an organic and engaging fashion.
Q: What advice do you have for brands that want to partner with viral influencers like Tariq?
A: Tariq is a great representation of our efforts to work with real fans. He visits our Chipotle Howard Beach restaurant in Queens, NY, at least once a week. There has to be an ownable angle for your brand when working with viral influencers. The content must be authentic and provide real value to the creator’s and the brand’s fanbases.
What Brands Can Learn From Chipotle’s Partnership with Corn Kid
For brands that want to partner with creators or influencers, especially in times of virality, here are some takeaways from my Q&A with Team Chipotle.
- Authenticity is the major key. Chipotle’s content performed well because it was authentic to the conversation that was already happening on social media, to Chipotle’s brand voice and how it shows up online, and to Tariq as a Chipotle fan and customer. Because of this, Chipotle was able to create content that not only resonated with their fans but also with fans of Tariq.
- Work smart, not hard. Yes, Chipotle could have turned this into an extensive media campaign. In fact, they still could. However, it wasn’t necessary. Often, in the race to be the first, brands overthink content development. Chipotle produced this content in less than 24 hours because they chose to go with the low-hanging fruit method—a simple video with simple social media copy.
- Leave the door open. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak were really on to something here. While the partnership between the brand and Corn Kid could stop at this one video, Tariq has now been integrated not only into Chipotle’s brand story but also into their community. Corn Kid will always be one of their biggest brand advocates as long as Chipotle continues to foster that relationship.
Look to Chipotle as a brand that’s giving the people what they love most—a feel-good moment to remember (and corn, of course).