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Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: Chipotle’s the Scarecrow

So far in our Content Marketing Campaign of the Week series we’ve discussed McDonald’s Canada’s “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign and Airbnb’s “Hollywood & Vines” campaign. Next up we’ll show you how restaurant chain, Chipotle, grabbed the hearts of the nation.

Chipotle's "The Scarecrow" Content Marketing Campaign

Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow,” an award-winning creative piece by the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) is a follow up to the “Back to the Start” video from 2011. The entire campaign encourages more than just eating at Chipotle, it’s a storytelling piece encouraging consumers to be responsible in their decisions, know where their food comes from, and how that affects different parties involved in the making of their food.

While “The Scarecrow” won acclaim for its creative aspects, it also received harsh criticism in several ways:  it isn’t clear it’s for Chipotle until the end when the logo is shown; the realities of farming exploitation are over-exaggerated; not all Chipotle locations serve truly natural food; the list goes on. However, like they say, even bad publicity is good publicity. But why is it good content marketing? Here are two main reasons.

1.     It tells a story. Well.

CAA used the controversial and timely topic of conventional farming to promote an overall belief Chipotle holds, and executes it artistically and emotionally. The entire video is focused on how food gets to people, and in the end compares the steroid injected animals and not so fresh ingredients to what Chipotle wants to serve in their restaurants and be known for.

Again we have a video that provokes emotion – good and bad. From the creepy Willy Wonka music to the sad treatment of animals to the depressed Scarecrow working going home, and then to the positive turnaround when the scarecrow uses his fresh ingredients for a great meal, a viewer’s emotions range the spectrum and make the video memorable. The feel-good, do the right thing message of “Cultivate a Better World” at the ends the video with a positive feeling for viewers when they finally see the Chipotle logo.

And what about the lack of branding throughout the piece? If it were just another TV commercial, I’d say they dropped the ball. But this video had no traditionally paid advertising to begin with. When it debuted it had no other surrounding promotions for four weeks and lived only on the Chipotle website and YouTube. People who viewed this linked from tweets, Facebook posts and other shared channels already knowing it was for Chipotle.

As David Vinjamuri stated in his article in his Forbes article Chipotle Scarecrow Makes Enemies to Win Customers, “Relying on social messengers to connect the message to the brand.” Clearly the social messengers shared their hearts out. “The Scarecrow” has more than 13 million views. Chipotle relied on the public and its fans to talk about the issue and then associate their brand with truly fresh and natural food.

2.     The story aligns with Chipotle’s values and standards as a company.

Chairman of Chipotle Cultivate Foundation Steve Ells remarked,

Delicious, affordable food can be produced without exploiting the farmers, animals or the environment. Chipotle has proven this to be true, but Chipotle is only one small part of the solution. Our goal now should be to have all food produced as sustainably as possible.

This makes Chipotle likeable. If you’re options are between Qdoba and Chipotle, which one do you want to eat at right now? The entire concept of this ad builds on the acknowledgment that Chipotle wants to serve better food. They 100% admit that in some locations, this ideal isn’t possible, and they are trying to correct that. If they don’t hold themselves to that standard, this content marketing campaign would epically fail.

So how can you create something like this? Find a touching story that involves the core values of your organization – whether it’s a customer, a process your company follows, or an employee story – and create a piece around that. Clearly images induce emotions, so infographics, videos and photos are most sharable. But remember to stay true to your brand. If you put the effort into producing content focused on a core value, your company better actually display and uphold that value.

Do you have any favorite content marketing campaigns you think we should feature? Let us know in the comments section!

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