Why is everyone loving this Chipotle commercial?

When its not faking a hacking into its own Twitter account, Chipotle does some pretty innovative marketing, and its latest campaign, along with an accompanying short film, is receiving widespread acclaim.

The Week.com’s Peter Weber called it “the most beautiful, haunting infomercial you’ll ever see,” while Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker said it was on track to become one of this year’s most successful marketing campaigns.

Here’s the video: 

If the plot isn’t immediately apparent, here’s a helpful synopsis from Chipotle: 

In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.

The video truly is haunting, playful and a more than a little dark. It’s more of a short film rather than a commercial, and it serves as a promo for a new iOS game that will be released by Chipotle with the same name. The rest of the campaign will include four TV show–length short movies titled Farmed and Dangerous sometime next year. That’s a helluva lot of content from one brand for a campaign, and it looks like Chipotle’s launched it in the best possible way, by going viral.

Why is this video so effective? Here are couple a couple of reasons:

It looks (and sounds) beautiful: Creativity in itself is helpful, but when it’s backed by award winning technical skills, it really goes a long way. The team behind the animated film is the Shreveport, Louisiana based Moonbot Studios, which won an Oscar last year for its animated short “Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, “and the song in the background is Fiona Apple covering the song “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 cult classic Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. 

The message is authentic: Ever since it split from majority shareholder McDonald’s, Chipotle has become the poster child for fast food done the right way. It has successfully driven home its creed of only using real, untainted, non-genetically engineered food and that sentiment shines through without being heavy handed in the film. While there are some disturbing images of animal cruelty in the video, they aren’t too graphic to turn viewers off, and it strikes the right tone when it comes to tugging at the heartstrings.

The promotion isn’t overt: If you watch the video, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have the Chipotle brand anywhere in it. The only thing that alludes to the fast food chain is the trademark Chipotle basket the Scarecrow character uses to serve his burrito. It really does look like the goal was to create a very watchable, entertaining short film with an emotional message. Will it make you want to eat a burrito? Maybe. But more importantly it will either convince you, or reinforce your perception of Chipotle as a brand that’s out to do good. Speaking to USA Today, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer Mark Crumpacker said they couldn’t afford to have major brand presence in the video because it turns off the coveted millennial generation, which Crumpacker says is “skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves.”

This is a great example of a digital campaign that requires a heavy investment, but yields in a high quality product. It helps that Chipotle’s brand image is generally well-liked, inspires real loyalty among customers. But this campaign should take it to the next level. 

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