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.

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