Monthly Archives: August 2011

Chipotle’s Grasp of Video and Marketing is Not Mired in Slop

For a fast-food company that does not do TV commercials, Chipotle finally seems to get video.  They also seem to really get the value of being true to the brand – even if it is not the norm.  When most people think of fast-food, they are not thinking of Willie Nelson covering Coldplay’s “The Scientist” through a stop-motion animated film highlighting the favorable aspects of sustainable farming over industrial farming.  They are usually thinking about the industrial farming – especially if they’ve ever driven on I-5 from Los Angeles to San Francisco and passed by the McDonalds farm, with its mud, cows and horrid smell. If anyone thinks of Chipotle, they probably wouldn’t think about short films – especially as this is their first – but they should think  about their sustainability methods after viewing this.

Chipotle has done a lot before, during and after being majority owned by McDonalds (who divested of their ownership in 2006) to focus on healthy and sustainable measures – both in their food and their more than 1000 locations.  They attempt to maintain the healthy food bit by working with sustainably harvested, fresh ingredients and respectfully treated animals, land and farmers. And, they build all of their locations with an eye toward further sustainability in the materials they use. I’m not including this part to preach about the company, but to highlight how intrinsic this belief is to the core of the company – making the campaign I describe below more natural, true and effective.

As an extension of their core vision of “Food With Integrity”, the video campaign does not seem forced or just a part of some BS publicity effort to try to sell burritos.  I’m sure that they definitely want it to help sell more burritos, but the execution does not feel like a cheap ploy to get further media penetration.

They just get it by being consistent with their core.  As stated previously, they don’t do television commercials.  As such, they are able to produce this two-minute video unencumbered by time constraints.  They are driving views to their site and Facebook page, but where they are being smart is in the screening of the short film on 5700 movie theatre screens before the feature film beginning in September.  In such a venue, the audience can enjoy the merits of the animation by Johnny Kelly, the music and the entire substance of the film – where a farmer reflects on how his farming has gotten out of hand and decides he wants to go back to the start and the natural benefits therein.  The piece is moving when viewed on the computer, but I’m sure it will even be more so on the big screen.

There is not a call out to buy a burrito or a bowl, just to “Cultivate A Better World” with the company url at the end of the video.  In the black at the end, it invites you to download the song from iTunes with the proceeds benefiting the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

Doing a quick check, Chipotle has a solid presence on Facebook and their site is robust, but they don’t seem to have a strong history with video.  Even if you are a fan of Amy Sedaris, the series of web videos focusing on her and gold foil makes no sense.  Even if you know they are referring to the Chipotle burrito foil wrap, it comes across as mis-directed with no take away. They posted some fan-made videos to YouTube and even posted what seemed to be agency pitch videos for what is now Back To The Start. What all this does is really prove that they weren’t successful without focusing on their core element – the “Better World, Sustainability” thing that helps them stand out among fast-food restaurants.

To me, a favorite burrito is as much a personal taste thing as what your favorite burger stand is.  Living in Los Angeles provides the opportunity to get phenomenal burritos more easily than in other parts of the country (and internationally) that Chipotle serves. But, if I have an emotional connection with a place or brand because of believing in some of their same core values, it would lead me to consume more of what they’ve got.

Chipotle has done a good job in all respects on this campaign and I hope it does as well as it should.  It certainly would be a shame if it was lost in the slop among other well-intentioned and well-executed campaigns that just didn’t connect.


Glad to be Nominated

Two of my projects were announced as finalists for the OMMA Awards today.  Both the PREDATORS Page Takeover that I conceived and worked with Think Jam and MediaMind on and the Catalog FIGHT CLUB Video Campaign I did with Break on behalf of Fox Home Entertainment are one of three finalists in their respective categories.

You can see all of the nominees at the official site.

Hewlett-Packard’s Sunset and the Unclear Search For Tomorrow

Last Monday, Hewlett-Packard announced it was moving out of the computing business. What used to be the thing of tomorrow has become the riff-raff of yesterday. They have decided to drop what was thought to be their main business as they were the leading manufacturer, especially after “saving” Compac from near death almost a decade ago (my how time flies) and IBM dropping out of the computer business.  They didn’t even give their new tablet product a chance to breathe. The margins just didn’t pan out and with personal computing changing in the way it has with mobile phones and tablets gaining and prices of PCs (both desktops and laptops) dropping – unless you have a little apple do-hickey that lights up on your computer – I guess it just didn’t make sense to continue.

Keep in mind that HP will continue making printers and selling the ink that fills it at high margin. SO, they’re not totally on skid row even when floundering to specify what they will now become.  The odd thing is that they are stating that they are moving into the software business after the acquisition of the British development firm, Autonomy. If only they had not waited too long and now seem so as to not just look to be floating a Hail Mary.

Michael Hiltzik wrote anice piece in the LA Times yesterday about how companies are effectively overcome by the newer companies.  And, even if HP was started in 1939, it was still all about computers – and it’s really bizarre to see computers being the grandfathers in the room.  Hiltzik gives examples of other companies that met similar fates by not changing or changing too late.

The reality is that things are changing so fast that even the newest of companies will fall behind and perhaps go away if they don’t stay ahead of the game.  Unfortunately, the days of 5 or 10 year plans seems to have gone out the window in the late ’90s when it became all about the stock price today.  That feeling is pervading everything.  Educations is cut because of the budget woes today and the fact that nobody looked seriously enough at the future to consider how things can be made better in the future.  Kids will not be as prepared for the business world as they should be. Politicians say they are all about the future, but it’s just too entrenched in our society to do for today.  To spend for today. To celebrate for today. If businesses are just about today, we’re in real trouble tomorrow…

You can really see something special when a company or entity celebrates today, but has an eye toward the future.  When a company can keep a percentage of its budget for R&D or real growth, that is something that benefits them and everyone else around them.

Its going to take a lot of change to shift the momentum from trying to keep status quo for too long to smartly digging in for tomorrow.  HP had management woes that make it sort of easy to see what went wrong, but what about others?

Hiltzik highlights the fact that of the twelve companies that made up the Dow Jones industrial average index, only one, GE, is still around.  He focuses on the detail that Facebook and Google are at the top of the heap now, but will they be there in a century? Only if they don’t get caught up in themselves and develop smartly.

Surely, other companies will come along to battle at the top and some companies will fall – that’s the nature of capitalism. The hope is just that those companies don’t turn into “grandpa” and easily succumb to the next whippersnapper.


Perhaps RIM Can Stave Off Death A Little Longer

In what seems like either a strong or last-gasp move by RIM to remain relevant for just a bit longer – and attempt to compete (or merely survive) with the Android and iOS smartphones that have worked together to decimate their market share – they announced they will be allowing Android Apps within new models.  Unfortunately, it isn’t clear that its going to be enough. 

RIM (Research in Motion) are the makers of BlackBerrys – the ubiquitous communication device for businesses only a short few years ago.  They are still relative favorites of IT departments due to their secure interface with Enterprise solutions.  The problem for them is that iPhones and Androids are so much more popular due to the applications that are available and their user interfaces.  While RIM has provided some nice BlackBerrys with solid UI, there is just not enough development of essential apps for their platform. Developers have long lamented the challenges of programming for and distributing of BlackBerry apps.  So, they mainly stopped.  The Apple App Store and Android Market products dwarf the BlackBerry App World inventory.

With the addition of Android app integration in the QNX operating system they are set to release next year, they certainly solve some issues.  But, the larger issue is how many people already have or had BlackBerrys and the move to iOS or Android is already made.  RIM had less than stellar sales on their tablets and it begs the question whether they can still be relevant.

One of RIMs successes was their security that made IT professionals comfortable with it. By including Google’s Android products, they are possibly opening themselves up to the malware attacks that hit the Android Market recently. 

It will be interesting to see if this move was also to entice Google to acquire RIM – something that has been buzzing through the blogosphere recently, but now less likely after Google’s Motorola Mobility pending acquisition.

So, while there are strong merits to the move, I feel they waited too long to make this shift.    If there were a software upgrade to existing phones, it would certainly help – who knows if that will ultimately come.  Heading into a weekend, I don’t want to post something stupid about RIM and gRIM reaper, so I won’t.  I don’t see this as anything more than something to prolong the death – or M&A from a larger company – but I’ve been wrong before…

Jobs Steps Down – Strong Hopes For Apple

Just last week, I pondered what could happen when Steve Jobs retires and how that could affect Apple and its constant ability to innovate.  Funny how timing is as Jobs just announced exactly a week after my post that he is stepping down.

The letter follows:

“To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


The stock market has reacted quickly and we can only hope that all it is doing is providing the opportunity for some to get some Apple stock at a slightly reduced price.  The reality is that we will now see how intrinsically Innovation and user-friendly experiences are part of Apple’s DNA. It seems like they had a succession plan in place, but only time will tell if they actually follow through on that.

Jobs is certainly one of a kind and it would be challenging for anyone to be able to lead in the same manner as he did.  Guy Kawasaki – one of the earliest pieces of the Apple team and previously its Chief Evangelist – characterized Jobs this morning on NPR as the most demanding boss he ever had.  He also called out the fact that he is one of the strongest presenter of products – ever.  That element is made somewhat easier when the product is so good, but we’ve seen a vast amount of people with great products and no ability to convey that to an audience and whip them into a frenzy like Jobs.  Jobs was able to do that in spades – from the Macintosh, to the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad.  Yes, there were misses – like the Newton – but Jobs was able to keep them moving forward, even when battling debilitating illnesses.

I don’t have any stock in Apple.  I am not just an Apple guy as I personally work on both PCs and Macs. I have multiple iPods and an iPad, but my mobile phone is an Android.  The truth is that all of technology – and perhaps media consumption – is better off with an Apple that is running on all cylinders.  Their success in innovative products and practices sets a bar that has allowed others to strive for and draft off of.

There is so much chatter online, and in traditional media about this.  He is not leaving the company – only stepping down as CEO. The buzz is testament to the fact that no other CEO stepping down in recent history has brought up as much concern for the future of a company or industry – as no other person has done so much the particular way Jobs has. While people focus on the thought that Apple is DOA without Jobs at the helm, it benefits us all to hope that plans were set in place for the company to continue to grow successfully.

After all, the sign of a good business is not just producing a solid product, but clearly communicating its benefits and setting up the company’s structure so that the business can continue productively long after the founders are gone.

Sometimes, Its By Accident

With all of the ways in which to consume media and information, it is often refreshing to run into something of interest by accident.  This morning was just one of those times.  In a bizarre chain of events that led me to place my toddler daughter on my lap to watch the Beastie Boys INTERGALACTIC music video on youtube, we came across a listing for the OK Go Muppet Show Theme Song video with the Muppets that was just posted yesterday.

My daughter was attracted to the image of Kermit and I was attracted to the fact that OK Go always produces great videos.  The video is fun – with allusions to past OK Go videos and key elements of the Muppet Show.  There are so many inside jokes and references that I didn’t mind it when I was forced to watch it three times.

The video was presented with a VEVO skin that showed some of the Muppet characters in a Obey-type format with the link below it to check out the green album. 

Curiosity got the better of me – after she went off to begin her day – as I clicked that link to get to a site about the Green Album as I knew there was a movie coming out and figured it was something related.  But I didn’t understand why the film was not called out in the artwork.  it certainly seemed like a lot of Muppet representation for what seemed at initial sight to be an OK Go release.

I was definitely wrong about it just being OK Go.  It’s an entire cover album of so many of the beloved songs.  There was a track listing – and more importantly to me, a link to a movie site.

The movie site showed a couple of trailers, including one named THE FUZZY PACK.  The reason this stands out is that it really speaks to the sweet spot demographic that grew up as fans of the original Muppet movies and THE MUPPET SHOW.  The style absolutely plays to that audience and adds an alternate twist to the brand without demeaning it.  They used smart editing to create a lot with a little.  it was a much better manipulation of brand than what other well known brands for the same target generation – where a certain dark lord is made to look foolish in the attempt to attract a broader audience.

This Muppets effort is compelling for a number of reasons:

  • It didn’t dumb down  or alter the brand to try to broaden an audience – it was true to its core with the belief that the audience is smart enough to get it – both the aged fans and the new ones.
  • Whereas many campaigns would hammer film release dates down our throats with any anciliary release, this experience left that up to discovery.  They relied on the hook of the initial entry point to lead the user down a path to the end.  With a brand like this and the audience they were going for with the initial music video, anyone who wouldn’t want to find more wouldn’t have been affected by the release date if it was plastered on that VEVO skin to begin with.
  • The style and taste of every component was consistent – even with the elements being presented as part of the record label and the studio.  There was a sense of self-parody from the frames of the first music video through to the last frame in the last trailer on the movie page that calls out that it is yet another parody.  From before Kermit appeared in an underwear parody of Marky Mark, Pardoy has been a driving force in the Muppet universe.

It certainly was an accident that I cam across the music video in the first place – some would say that it had to do with Disney’s placement.  I would say that it was their placement that helped me find it and enabled me to explore more. 

Much of what happens online and in the digital space is by accident.  It’s up to the good marketers to set themselves up in a position to take advantage of those accidents.

Miramax and Facebook – The Really Interesting Part

With the launch of the Miramax Facebook App that enables streaming rental of some of their titles, it brings up a number of fascinating elements to consider.  As we see the rush on video distribution formats that enable consumers to consume however they want – whenever they want, Facebook adds a new dimension that could have future implications in more ways than just watching a movie here or there. 

You can check out the limited details about the release here, but these are some of those things to keep an eye on as we move further into the experiment.

  • Forget about second-screen application that utilize Facebook Connect to enable conversation during movies.  This application has the ability, if done correctly, to have everything happen within the same interface.
  • Not just related to this Miramax deal, by being web-based, they are able to leverage the cloud and truly make the anytime, anywhere (with a connection) more seamless than other digital video streaming options out there – with an already-huge user base.  The user conversion expense should be mitigated to just internal communications.  And, the incremental costs of streaming should also not be as hard of a hit that other video streaming sites feel due to Facebook’s already huge traffic threshold.
  • A fantastic component that provides a “wait and see” mentality is the fact that they are promoting this as an iPad feature – but only within an optimized web-version that can be viewed via the Safari browser on the iPad.  It is an ingenious way to get around the 30% revenue split with Apple.   The wait and see part is that we don’t know whether the quality will be consistently good with streaming/connectivity concerns and the lack of an iOS-native interface.  Additionally, we are seeing a bifurcation of quality tastes among users – some wanting great HD quality and some not really caring at all.
  • Another look toward the future is in the handling of the payments for this product. The option of paying $3 or 30 Facebook credits enables consumers to use virtual currency for even more goods.  A key factor of this is when it comes to profit participation.  How do you share that profit when it is a FB credit that might have been accrued by the user for participating in other marketing functions – where there was never any monetary transaction?  Another interesting aside to this is that a user could ostensibly “earn” the currency to pay for this by watching videos or trailers from other studios.  Certainly an interesting dynamic.
  • We know that Facebook does not let anything slide by them in terms of capturing information about consumer usage and tastes.  An embedded video player adds depth to their knowledge base about each consumer – how much they watch, what they watch, when they watch, etc.  For a company that wanted to shy away from advertising at its inception, they have become masters in pulling as much information as possible to enable them to target successfully and charge for it – privacy be damned.

Ultimately, there are a LOT of business complexities that need to be shaken out in the realm of online movies – both in viewing and distribution platforms.  Facebook is uniquely positioned to be the bellweather for how consumers want to consume video online due to their penetration and technical prowess.  Hopefully, we’ll all be able to learn from consumer reaction to any and all of the elements listed above and move forward.