Chipotle cups

These cups offer way more than just company logos.

For a couple of years now, Chipotle has been serving up more than just burrito bowls. The fast food company has also been giving customers a taste of content marketing with its Cultivating Thought campaign each time they reach for their drink, with stories and messages on cups and bags. How does this nontraditional marketing technique work to build Chipotle’s brand? Let’s find out.

Catching a Reader’s Attention

Whether it’s a taco-shaped mascot or a coupon in the local paper, brands are always trying to think up new ways to grab your attention. The story behind Cultivating Thought is a simple one: according to The New York Times,
author Jonathan Safran Foer was eating lunch at a Chipotle, and he was bored. Inspired, he suggested to Chipotle CEO Steve Ells that the business feature writing on their packaging, to alleviate the severe boredom that comes with lunchtime at a fast food joint. The writing series was born, turning previously-boring packages into gripping reading – and branded outreach. The story is about providing entertainment where there was none and connecting with customers in that moment of opportunity.

To be honest, though, advertising isn’t always about providing entertainment in a void: sometimes it’s about yelling into the crowd. In today’s advertising world, you need a bullhorn. People aren’t always bored at a fast food venue: they may be talking with friends, focusing on a work project, or eating on the run. However, no matter what they’re doing, everyone must interact with the product’s packaging, whether it’s a to-go cup or a burrito wrapper. By adding eye- and mind-catching words to its packaging, Chipotle draws in an audience, connecting with its customers in a memorable way, whether those customers are looking for something to do or gazing at the wrapper as they hurriedly eat their lunch.

boy reading at breakfast

Multitasking starts early: Chipotle’s reaching out to customers who are interested in some meal time entertainment.

Brand Placement and Cultivating Thought

Every brand has its personality, and a Mexican fast food restaurant is no exception. Chipotle doesn’t want to remain within the confines of cliché Mexican food advertising. By creating a connection with famous authors, Chipotle moves out of the fast food rush into the genre of slower, cultivated thought. Novelists bring a feel of craftsmanship to a product. The Cultivating Thought author series incorporates commissioned short pieces by authors such as Toni Morrison. Readers see the author’s name, and Chipotle receives the benefits of a connection with literature.

Chipotle’s Newest Dish: The Cultivating Thought Contest

After working with well-known authors, Chipotle’s added new spice to its Cultivating Thought campaign by working with unknown authors instead. High school students who’ve submitted their food-related memories have them featured in short stories on Chipotle’s packaging. They also receive a scholarship for their efforts. By reaching out to high school audiences for the content, Chipotle reaches out to one of its core audiences for promotion, drawing aspiring authors into its marketing. The campaign also has a feel-good tone, supporting youth in their educational development and in their artistic endeavors.

As you develop your marketing strategy, talk with Media Shower. We’ll work with you to develop delicious content that satisfies your customers. Contact us today and request a free content marketing assessment.