If you got the chance to catch this year’s Grammy Awards you might have seen the new Chipotle Mexican Grill commercial titled “Back to the start” which was the eighteen year-old company’s very first national ad campaign. Chipotle is a Mexican restaurant that falls into a fairly new dining category they describe as “fast-casual”.
They have a minimal menu offering three choices of entrees including tacos, burritos and burrito bowls which consist of the burrito ingredients served in a bowl without the flour tortilla. You can choose between grilled chicken breast or steak and shredded pork or beef as well as a vast number of veggies, rice, beans and condiments.This “fast-casual” concept differs from traditional fast food in that they use premium ingredients and value the quality of the food they buy over the quantity of food they sell.
I live within ten miles of at least two Chipotle’s, have walked right by them on hundreds of occasions and for some reason I’ve never stopped in and seen what they had to offer. I go out to eat quite often; I even frequent the Bobby’s Burger Palace right next door to my closest Chipotle and I still never noticed them. Then, on Grammy night during the break I decided to grab a quick snack and when I came back the Chipotle commercial was just beginning. It is an animated ad that opens with a farmer working on his farm that is full of happy cows and pigs roaming free in the pasture which is exactly what people would imagine a farm to be like. A song called “The Scientist” by ColdPlay is covered by Willie Nelson and is playing in the background. As the animation progresses we watch as the farmer slowly turns his free‐range farm into an industrial feedlot in efforts to produce a larger quantity of food. The once happy cows and pigs are now kept in tiny cages so close to one another they cant even move. They are fed a diet full of steroids and hormones, which fatten them in a short amount of time to the point that they are transformed into large, round, pink balls. The sphere shaped “pigs” are then placed on a conveyer belt, smashed into a cube, loaded on a truck and then shipped out to our local grocery stores.
The scene turns dark as the farmer walks across his farm contemplating his new methods of food production. He thinks about the poison and drugs that he is feeding his animals and the negative effect they are having on them and the land and suddenly realizes the error of his ways. The scene brightens back up and we watch as the farmer tears down the walls of the confined gestation cages and frees his farm animals from such inhumane treatment. The short film ends just as it began, with happy animals roaming free on the range and a sign post that reads “Cultivate a better world…Chipotle.com”.
This was supposed to be a commercial, I have seen millions of them over my lifetime and although there have been many that succeeded in moving me in some way, Chipotle’s ad definitely took the cake. I was touched, deeply moved but also very sad. I have seen movies like Food Inc. that teach us about the practices the corporate food industry employs to manufacture our food, but I have never heard of a restaurant taking a direct shot at them in a national ad that millions of viewers would see.
Immediately after the Grammys I got online and went to Chipotle’s website because I had to know more about this campaign. They advertise on the site that they live by the rule they call “Food with integrity” which states that they only buy meat that is raised in a cage free environment without the use of added hormones, antibiotics or steroids and that are treated as a living thing, not just dinner. They also only purchase dairy products coming from cows that have not been treated with rBGH, a genetically engineered growth hormone injected into the cows to increase milk production. Although rBGH is known to increase the risk of cancer it is still legally used in milk production the United States; Europe and Canada have both banned the sale of rBGH due to the potential health risks.
After visiting Chipotle the night after the ad premiered I can attest to the fact that they absolutely backed up their claims of fresh, quality food. I went to the restaurant expecting fast food service and I was pleasantly surprised with a filling and delicious dinner in a pleasant atmosphere sans the guilt of knowing my food was tortured it’s entire life before it was put on my plate. I realized that the reason Chipotle’s commercial moved me so much is because they appealed to the audience on an extremely emotional and moral level as opposed to a logical one. This approach was much more successful than it would have been if it had appealed to say, the money conscious consumer making purchases based on a good deal. We are in trying economic times and nearly every company is using the “save money with us” approach, so that would’ve lessened the emotional impact of the commercial substantially.
Seeing this commercial solidified my belief that we all make decisions based on emotion first and only then does logic come into play and back up that decision.As a design student I believe that this is an extremely important concept to grasp because just making things look pretty is not enough anymore. Understanding the way people make decisions will help us become better designers. By understanding and catering to the emotional needs of our client’s target audience we can provide them with better service, meaning better sales for our clients and ultimately repeat business for ourselves. Maybe I’m wrong, but to me that sounds like a win‐win-win situation!