Chipotle Web Video Takes Aim at Rivals - Burrito maker will launch new short film looks to focus on its strengths
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is going on the offensive with plans for
a new web video that takes aim at rival fast-food chains.
The burrito maker’s advertising has mostly focused on the quality of
its food since a string of disease outbreaks surfaced last fall,
sending its sales and share price cascading.
The new film, to be posted Chipotle’s website, YouTube, Hulu and other
outlets, starting Wednesday, features two juice-stand owners who use
conventional methods, including new menu items and price promotions to
The short, dubbed “A Love Story,” also takes issue with the use of
processed ingredients and ends with the two entrepreneurs discovering
the error of their ways and uniting to create a food stand that offers
“While we certainly have some trust to regain as it related to food
safety that’s not what the video is about,” said Mark Shambura,
director of brand marketing at Chipotle. “What we’re really looking to
do is remind consumers about our commitment to using quality
ingredients and classic cooking.”
Mr. Shambura said the film has been in the works for the past 18
months, before the food-safety issues or the unrelated legal problems
facing Mr. Crumpacker cropped up.
Robert Passikoff, president of marketing firm Brand Keys, said it
seems like Chipotle is hoping that focusing on all the strengths that
made it successful, such as local food and no preservatives, will help
people forget that its food made people sick. “But rebuilding trust
takes a long time,” he said. Mr. Passikoff hasn’t seen the new video,
which is not public yet.
The outreach to the public comes at an awkward time for the chain. The
company’s chief creative and development officer, Mark Crumpacker,
was placed on administrative leave last week after being indicted on
drug charges. Prosecutors said he was one of 18 alleged buyers
indicted as part of what was described as a $75,000 drug ring. On
Tuesday, Mr. Crumpacker was arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court and
released on $4,500 in cash bail. His lawyer declined to comment, and
said they would “deal with the case in the courtroom.”
Mr. Crumpacker has been responsible for setting the tone of Chipotle’s
communication with guests in the aftermath of the food-safety
problems. He steered away from mentioning food safety, choosing
instead, he said, to focus on the quality of the ingredients.
The chain, which saw its stock price fall 35% over the past 12 months,
also has relied on food giveaways to lure back customers who have
stayed away from its restaurants.
Crisis marketing expert Richard Levick, who hasn’t seen the new
Chipotle video, said the company is taking the right stance in
sticking with its roots, despite the hiccups. “Leadership is not about
perfection, it’s about keeping true to who they are,” he said. “This
is who we’ve come to associate with Chipotle.” It isn’t the first time
Chipotle has used film to take mark their position on food.
In 2011, Chipotle released a short film called “Back to the Start,”
which demonized large, industrial farming. Two years later, Chipotle
released “The Scarecrow,” which criticized processed food. Last fall,
Chipotle produced a short film showing a customer entering a
fictitious restaurant called “Cheapotle” where she discovers workers
adding artificial ingredients to her food.
Meanwhile, rivals such as McDonald’s Corp. and Yum Brands Inc. ’s
Taco Bell have been posting stronger growth and borrowing from
Chipotle’s playbook of offering fresher food and more humanely sourced
The new film’s message of fresh over prepared foods appears to
contradict Chipotle efforts to prepare more of its dishes in central
kitchens, rather than in its restaurants.
The chain had been loath to offer the type of loyalty program common
in the restaurant industry, but recently introduced one for the first
time to reward customers who visit frequently each month.
In other news, somehow Crooked Hillary still isn't in prison...