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Chipotle’s Fake Twitter Hack: Can Customers Take a Joke?




chipotle headerTwitter hacking is as common now as pet rocks in the 70’s. True hacks usually lead to an hour or so of offensive Tweeting followed by numerous mea culpas from the company even though it wasn’t their fault. Sometimes, it’s partially their fault because the “hack” is actually a disgruntled or inebriated employee who decided to make his grievances public.

Then there are those times when a celebrity Tweet-blurts something terrible but instead of owning up to their misdeeds, they claim their account was hacked.

Now we have the case of Chipotle – the folks who “hacked” their own account as a publicity stunt. It worked. They picked up more than 4,000 followers and 12,000 reTweets. Mashable says their normal numbers are around 250 new followers and 75 reTweets. Chipotle has more than 200,000 followers, so it’s not like they were hurting before this all began.

Chris Arnold, a Chipotle representative, told Mashable,

“We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people’s attention and make them talk, and it did that. It was definitely thought out: We didn’t want it to be harmful or hateful or controversial.”

It wasn’t. The odd thing is, it wasn’t even funny. The random “hacker” tweets were plain dumb.

chipotle twitter

I can’t believe anyone thought that was a hacker. Surely a geek with skills could come up with something more interesting to post than “end twitter” and “Mittens13 password leave.”

Former fast food hackers had the decency to malign competitors and leave truly controversial remarks. So if people were put off by this random chain of nonsense notes, they need to learn to meditate or something.

By admitted they created the hack themselves, Chipotle got what they wanted all along – publicity. And yes, I know, I’m part of the problem. But will customers head for Del Taco now that they know Chipotle lied to them? Will the 4,000 new people unfollow now that they know the truth? And why did they follow in the first place? We’ll probably find out that the 4,000 people are actually fake accounts created to make this news story more interesting.

Look, brand reputation is built on trust. If you lie to your customers, some are going to wonder what else you’re lying about and they’re going to walk away. That’s how this works.

But the real failure here is Chipotle’s ability to get creative with the stunt. I don’t understand why they posted inane Tweets. They knew they were going to apologize later, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to go really wild?

What do you think? Can you ever deceive your customers and get away with it? I say, if it’s creative and / or exciting enough – you can.

  • MrAndrewJ

    If the other restaurants hadn’t been hacked recently, the 20 day “Adventurito” scavenger hunt would be described more like an alternate reality game than a “fake hack.” (Not really) hacked web sites and (not really) corrupted media files with secret clues in them are staples of ARG style advertising. The Dark Knight did a very fun one. Heroes did it. Video games do it. Rock bands do it.

    I think Chipotle is running an ARG style advertising campaign. I think some unfortunate timing and labeling is the difference in how people are perceiving it.