Sometimes a new product can double as a not-so-subtle message to customers. That seems to be the clever intent of Chipotle's newest product: A limited edition scented candle that smells like lemonade. The joke--and the message--is that it comes in cup that looks just like a Chipotle water cup. It's a not-so-subtle nod to the restaurant chain's customers who request a (free) water cup and then fill it with lemonade or some other non-water beverage instead.
To make sure everyone gets the joke, Chipotle is selling the candle in a box that says "Water" Cup Candle on it. The company's headline on the new product announcement is: "Chipotle's new 'water' cup candle is a total steal." Oh, and just to drive the point home, each candle comes with a coupon for a free cup of lemonade--just in case you feel uncomfortable about stealing it.
Why do I think this candle is a great example of emotional intelligence? Consider some other ways the company's leadership could have dealt with its customers' habit of stealing beverages. It could have created new security measures such as a separate water station instead of letting people use the water dispenser in the soda machine. It could have tried to shame or scare people out of stealing lemonade. Perhaps it even could have started selling water in bottles rather than offer free water.
Instead, the company put its relationship with customers, friendliness, and especially its sense of humor front and center by letting people know it's well aware of their thievery, but is willing to turn a blind eye. "Some Chipotle fans have been known to 'accidentally' fill their complimentary water cups with lemonade at the restaurant's beverage station," the company explains in its announcement about the candle. And it's not the first time it's let on that it knows about the practice and won't be calling the police anytime soon.
You: *steals our old lemonade*-- Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) July 21, 2020
Us: *adds new lemonade made by farmers, @TractorBverage*
Us: *gives 5% of each lemonade sale back to farmers*
You: *buys our new lemonade*
What do customers think about the new candle? They seem to love it. Not only were the social media comments on the product almost entirely positive. Many Twitter users admitted to putting lemonade or soda in their water cups, and many more said they wanted one or expressed disappointment that the item was not (yet) available in the Chipotle store. Apparently they meant it, because a few hours after it appeared in the Chipotle store, the candle was sold out.
Perhaps, given its high popularity, the chain will make some more. While they're at it, maybe they'll bring back the cilantro soap as well.
There's a growing audience of Inc.com readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or tip. Often they text me back and we wind up in a conversation. (Interested in joining? Here's more information and an invitation to an extended free trial.) Many are entrepreneurs or business leaders, and they tell me how important it is to approach every situation with lightness, compassion, and a good sense of humor. Chipotle's response to a minor and common bit of thievery is a great example of doing just that.