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Burrito Branding

The strategies of advertising and branding are constantly evolving. As corporations adapt their marketing models to fit a consumer-base that now mainly resides online and on social media outlets, there has been a rise in unique ad campaigns – some of which don’t initially appear as such.

Chipotle, one of the nation’s fastest-growing food chains (and bastion of tasty burritodom) is known for its dedication to organic and locally-raised food products and unconventional advertising, but their new campaign tops anything they’ve done before – and any other Internet-based marketing. Abandoning budgetary restraints – each episode cost a whopping $250,000 to produce – and traditional online-marketing methods, Chipotle just released a four-part sitcom, Farmed and Dangerous, on Hulu that aims to generate awareness about factory farming and promote the company’s commitment to products grown and raised on small farms.

In the distinct fashion that we’ve come to expect from Chipotle, the miniseries hardly mentions the company at all, as they chose to focus on the issues they tout as corporate values, as opposed to the products they sell in their restaurants. This experiment in advertising takes a public relations angle rather than a promotional angle, and by highlighting matters that are central to their business-model, they succeed in flaunting their company as a champion for small-farming and humane treatment of animals (thus bringing in their desired customer-base).

The main problem I can see with this variety of covert branding is that it may be viewed as pseudo-propaganda, and actually alienate some potential or existing customers. In Chipotle’s case, one risk involves making sweeping generalizations about large-scale farms and the way in which they operate. Chipotle may endure some corporate backlash as a result, but any news coverage surrounding Farmed and Dangerous will only serve to promote it as well. See how that works?

In an age where corporations are constantly seeking new avenues to reach their customers, Chipotle is setting the baseline for creative online-advertising. It will be interesting to see what kind of results they yield, and if other companies begin adopting similar inventive strategies.

– Carter Breazeale

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