With an increasing number of digital campaigns moving away from the average microsite and towards content, it’s no surprise that “The Scarecrow” campaign from Chipotle was a big winner at Cannes this year, receiving two Golds and one Grand Prix. But what can it tell us about the future of branded content?
1. It’s all about integration: In addition to a viral video that gained mass attention through earned media, “The Scarecrow” also employed a number of complementary elements such as a song available on iTunes and an arcade-style adventure game for smartphone and tablet. The game climbed to the number one spot in the app store while driving players to stores with a code to redeem for free burrito upon completion. All tactics worked together to attack the evils of industrial food production while extending the brand’s challenge to “cultivate a better world.”
2. The best content is beautiful content: Chipotle teamed up with PR agency Edelman and animators Moonbot Studios to create a Tim Burton-esque dystopia featuring sinister crows, caged cows with pleading eyes and a fearless scarecrow on a mission to provide a healthier, happier way of eating. When paired with Fiona Apple’s haunting cover of “Pure Imagination,” the effect is both nostalgic and eerily unforgettable, clearly pulling on the heartstrings of Millennials.
3. Bold storytelling should take a stand: Of course, we know the powerful effect of stories on the brain, but Chipotle went one step beyond pure narrative to actually tackle a hard-hitting issue. Unlike Chipotle’s previous winner, “Back to the Start,” this video is heart-heavingly sad and received passionate responses from the brand’s supporters and detractors. Chipotle made the concerted choice to be at the center of the conversation about ethics and sustainability, taking the focus off their product to create a narrative about their beliefs and inspire their audience to think twice about their food choices.
4. Earned media can run the show if the content is truly remarkable: One of the most astounding things about “The Scarecrow” is the fact that it never evolved in to a banner ad or TV spot. In fact, Chipotle never paid for placement. The outcome was simply astounding, resulting in more than 18MM social conversations with a 92.7 social sentiment score in its first month alone, according to the Restaurant Social Media Index.
There’s much to learn from such audacious moves, both in creating unabashedly emotional stories and completely stepping away from paid media, making Chipotle a key player in marketing landscape.
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