There are many flavors of content marketing. Most of us are using content to build a direct relationship with our customers and sales channel. We divert resources from what we would have tried to accomplish via advertising towards creating valuable content and then extending the reach via paid and earned media.
Chipotle does all of that and is going further. Look at their Cultivate Festival that creates events with music, local food providers and educational food bars for Chipotle. Look at their CAA-fueled work with the Scarecrow video (12M+ views) and the mobile games of the same name/theme. Look at the interview from their Co-CEO Steve Ellis and the subsequent tweetable fast facts on their Web site.
Chipotle has adopted a clear and consistent story platform about the heritage of their brand in the midst of modern food factory production and farming trends. The festival, the slick video stories, the deep information on their Web site and their engagement with their customers online are all grown from a consistent seed. By aligning all of their efforts, they always stay on-message, they reap the benefits of an accumulated understanding of who they are (what I call ‘relevant awareness’), they use their marketing dollars wisely.
I don’t have the inside information about how well this marketing approach is paying off for them in terms of sales. I am guessing they have business goals (sales) and they have brand goals (do people believe that Chipotle walks the walk of a strong community and health commitment). As far as brand goals, I have to believe they are well on the way towards establishing themselves as a responsible choice for millennials and more.
Branded entertainment not a poor man’s entertainment
Check out Michael Weiss’ article in Content Marketing Institute on their brand storytelling. Watch the Scarecrow video and the Back to the Start video that came before. Chipotle works with CAA to create these rich videos and the derivative games that go along with them. I remember when Coca-Cola turned to CAA in the eighties shocking the ad agency world. That was about getting Hollywood talents to develop TV commercials. Now CAA is about sourcing the right storytelling talent to create all sorts of formats not bound by the traditional formulas of television advertising.
The production value of of the Scarecrow video is way up there. The Chipotle branding is way down there. The video is meant to trigger those who are outraged or at least disappointed by the factory farming techniques supporting our fast food nation to view and share. Created by the guys at Moonbot Studios (the Numberlys), the animation is wonderful. The video features a spooky Fiona Apple track just as the previous video featured Willie Nelson (remember Farm Aid?). There is even a "making of" video featuring Chipotle CMO Mark Crumpacker. These are stories designed to be shared and at 12m and 8m+ views respectively, its working.
Events as stimulants for online content and sharing
The Cultivate Festival for “food, ideas and music” gears up in early June in San Francisco with at least 2 other events planned in the US. While bands like Neon Trees draw people in, local food purveyors set up stands and the host, Chipotle, draws people to their own stands unlocking their recipe for guacamole. Celebrity hosts like Amanda Frietag hold the main stage for the responsibly-sourced food crowd. This is not just post-hippy stuff. Chipotle knows their customer.
These events will not only build local and regional excitement about their farm to table story, people attending will be tweeting and posting and extending the reach of these live events.
Telling the heritage story and making it shareable
The video from co-CEO Steve Ellis is good. He doesn’t read so much as relate. That means his message comes across genuine (I am guessing it is genuine). Of course, the video is published on their YouTube channel and then embedded on their owned and shared channels. The YouTube channel is neat and tidy and makes sense of the entertainment videos like Scarecrow, the Making of Scarecrow as well as their “On the Farm” videos visiting real farmers. The company time line on the Website gives us the history in a simple, bite-sized way.
But my favorite part of their heritage story is the “Food With Integrity” Facts (FWI). Seven pages of 12 facts about food, company history, animal feed and more. Each one of these little factoids are ready for tweeting and posting on Facebook including this myth-busting gem,
“There is a popular misconception that Chipotle restaurants are owned by McDonalds. While they were once an investor in our company, they divested in 2006 and our company went public on the New York Stock Exchange that year.”
They make their story genuine, personal and wonderfully shareable. A quick glance at their Facebook wall and the Twitter landscape shows modest dissension amongst the vocal public. The complaints range from too small portions to orders gone a bit wrong but these are normal and the community managers quickly engage. There are some detractor twitter handles but, again, it’s tough to find a brand that doesn’t spark some dissent.
Chipotle has created a consistent story platform and then expressed it consistently and creatively across their digital channels.