This week Chipotle has made another move in their campaign to change the course of corporate agribusiness and continues to expand a brilliant case study in brand development. After the success of last September’s Scarecrow the restaurant chain has stepped into new territory again by debuting an original comedy series “Farmed and Dangerous” on Hulu and Hulu Plus. The series is a satirical look at how the agriculture industry manages perceptions about its practices.
I found the first episode entertaining, funny, and smart. By developing believable characters and good storyline it keeps your attention while smartly integrating Chipotle’s own values. Chipotle’s stated goal is to “engage people through entertainment and make them more curious about their food and where it comes from,” said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle and an executive producer of the show.
Chipotle has demonstrated how a brand can not only take the lead on an industry topic but also set and dominate the direction of the conversation. The conventional agriculture industry is on the defensive with David White, director of commodity relations for the Ohio Farm Bureau, asking members to “try to understand the context in which Chipotle is taking this approach and why it might resonate with consumers who want to know more about how their food is produced.”
Those critical of Chipotle’s previous content because it does not go far enough in pushing a meat free diet will likely raise similar criticism to “Farmed and Dangerous.” While idealistic calls for perfection may be admirable, Chipotle’s mission is about education not being purists. They continue to see success with this strategy because customers loyal to their brand are on varying levels of the food consciousness spectrum and therefore respect the brand for it’s honesty even if they may not agree with all their practices.
Produced in conjunction with Piro, a New York-based studio, the series disrupts traditional advertising and shows that “brands need to make a decision,” said Tim Piper, a partner at Piro and director of “Farmed and Dangerous.” “They can either continue to interrupt entertainment, or they can inspire it.” They can decide to stand for and operate with purpose.
Chipotle and similarly Whole Foods have learned that bringing the food consciousness conversation to the greatest number of people requires a wide target. To Chipotle’s credit the series intro contains a quick reference to Food, Inc. as “more hippy propaganda” and an obvious nod to the film that exposes the highly mechanized underbelly of the nation’s food industry. Smart indeed…