The Blog of Babel

This site sits on the crossroads of Languages, Linguistics, Social Media Market Engagement, Marketing Strategy, Innovation Strategy, Creativity Theory, Ancient Mythology & Egyptology. Its a very small crossroads in the middle of cyberspace - so stay for a while - pull up a chair and coffee. 

Chipotle, ‘Cultivate Campaign’ - makes us feel warm and fuzzy.

Chipotle's Brand Evolution


The Chipotle Cultivate campaign is a very good example of rebranding. Their brand story really shows the life of a developing brand.

Chipotle traditionally was heavily associated with the aluminum brick burrito (see picture). Now, we all associate the silver bullet with Chipotle goodness. Chipotle's advertising however has evolved greatly over its growth to stardom. Initially the company associated itself with burritos then healthy, locally sourced ingredients and now sustainability and "cultivation" from the source. It has shifted the dialogue to a higher level, and embraced an altruistic brand message that is loftier and transcends the burrito. At the end of the day, it allows them to connect with their customers more deeply and really create positive impact. 

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Chipotle Cultivate Campaign

This clever campaign had four main components - all listed above.  

  1. Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. This foundation's main purpose is to address and support family farms and sustainable practices in the farming industry. This allowed all marketing initiatives to have a charity component and legitimize their claims on sustainability. They demonstrated their commitments and also provided tons of great content to use in multi-media campaigns. Here is their website
  2. Loyalty Program.  Utilizing an old marketing tool, Chipotle put a new twist to an old idea. Instead of encouraging customers to eat more burritos - Chipotle's loyalty program (Farm Team) makes people learn about sustainable farming practices and family farming to be awarded points. It spreads knowledge and awareness and further demonstrates their commitment to the cause. As the program reminded its customers, "What your food eats, you eat"
  3. Cultivate Food Festival. What did this festival celebrate - what else, healthy, locally grown food. Ingredients matter. With bands, craft brewers, artisans, chefs, local farmers, musicians and healthy crowds - these festivals were a great success. They helped cultivate a community around their new brand message. Cultivating healthy food. 
  4. Short Film.  Obviously such an amazing campaign cannot go without its central viral element - a film short (below) called "Back to the Start". This short was aired during the Grammys for the first time and garnered much positive attention and 10,000+ tweets. Currently with 7.4 million views, this viral piece did great work to call attention to Chipotle's efforts. 

Sweet and Smokey Success

Why did Chipotle's efforts pay off so handsomely for the brand? 

  • One Word. This entire campaign stems from one word - Cultivate. A single word can be powerful if chosen correctly and if used as the driving thought behind all marketing pushes it can help connect efforts across platforms, create cohesion, deliver a stronger resounding message. This perfectly chosen single word campaign performed miracles to galvanize Chiptole's new brand message and story.   
  •  The Fuzzy Warm Feeling. Bringing a marketing campaign back to altruistic roots can really help legitimize any campaign and touch people's emotions - allowing for greater message reach. This completely made transparent Chipotle's methods and message and humanized their brand as they adopted such a community oriented goal to their central mission. Lessons learned - sincerity counts.
  • Narrative. This campaign had a strong narrative that was clear and precise. In addition, more stories could be drawn from local communities during their festival and in their foundation's efforts to really spread the message in a large way from a local level. 

Evil Marketing Tactics & Organ Donation

The Dark Side of the Force


Is marketing evil? 

Over the weekend I read an article by Michael Serazio about "Why Marketing has become like Guerrilla Warfare" In the article he talks about how marketing has become more covert and underground. He argues that the line between content and advertisement has been blurred - it is no longer separate (TV Show vs. TV Ad) 

Much the same is now happening in marketing. Thanks to a confluence of technological change, commercial clutter, and audience habits, the old advertising-media model for campaigns has been falling apart in slow motion. Consumers are more adept than ever at avoiding anything that looks like advertising. And whether or not agencies and corporations want to admit it, the necessary recourse has been to create content that doesn’t look like advertising.
— Serazio

He talks about the marketing warfare metaphor "conducting marketing campaigns". I have to take pause, as this is a very dangerous argument. I talked about this linguistic phenomenon where certain metaphors are built into languages in a previous blog post.  In my argument I made a connection between the English of "time being money" (spend time, waste time, buy time) and American culture. I however understood the limitations of my argument. The marketing as warfare linguistic metaphor argument raises many questions: Is this metaphor only built into English? Was this metaphor created before guerrilla style tactics existed? Is this metaphor more a symptom of the business as warfare metaphor in English - with marketing being one department?

Serazio also bemoans the ever popular online content curation platforms such as huffpost. Their popularity has come at the cost of the "more trustworthy" hard copy resources, he gives the example of Newsweek going out of business. 

This article left me wondering - is marketing evil? Is guerrilla marketing evil? 

Marketing is Inherently Empty

I think that Serazio makes a couple good points. Marketing has changed - become covert, clever, gone underground. The line between advertisement and content has indeed blurred - look at the new "sponsored" Facebook posts that show up in your newsfeed.  I know that the word "evil" needless boils down or simplifies Serazio's argument - however is this method inherently evil?

At the end of the day, marketing is inherently nothing, zilch, goose eggs. Marketing is simply a vehicle that assumes the traits the the driver, nothing more. It is a medium of communication. 


Here is a great example of how the nature of marketing depends on its subject. 

Organ Donation: Ogilvy Brazil

Problem : Thousands die each year in need of an organ transplant

Behavioral Resource : Brazilian sports fans are known the world over for their fanaticism, dedication and craziness

Solution: Utilize this natural resource to re-ochestrate the discussion on organ donation

Tactics: Guerilla marketing

Outcome: Higher donation rates

Watch the video. 

This campaign is amazing and really demonstrates the potential of marketing - especially in achieving altruistic goals. While not all marketing is so wholesome in the sense that it touches such humanitarian goals, it shows that marketing is inherently empty. However is marketing ethically required to be overt, to let you know of it's existence? I think not. Sometimes in order for marketing to be effective it needs to blur the lines and sneak up on you - it just shouldn't lie to you in the process.

Marketers are in the business of adding value to life, marketing is not about deceiving or hiding the truth - such marketing is unethical. A good ad should not tell you lies and state facts that are otherwise blurred or untrue. Marketing is in the business of finding that little bit of perceived value hiding under your nose and taking the fullest advantage of it.

We would find that in a world without marketers we would all have the same goods, the same relationships and the same amount of money - but we would all be a little bit poorer. True marketing is not black magic - it is a little extra service that benefits us all. 

Marketers are the bankers of perceived value. We are happy to deposit in your account everyday because we have our own set of economic rules. In the perceived value economy there is no inflation and supply is unlimited. We can print money out of thin air - the sky’s the limit. Demand is only driven by our customer’s imagination and in this economy we can all be prosperous at no extra cost to anybody.
— Me

How Marketers Manipulate You Without Your Knowing | Psychology Today

For example, a leading beverage company created a sound when opening the can (My guess is Snapple) that was subtly different from other cans to trigger a unique craving for their brand’s drink. The manufacturer redesigned the can to create a differentiating snapping sound, a branded cue of delicious anticipation. They then recorded the sound in a studio and incorporated it into advertising. The manufacturer would play the sound at major concerts and sporting events, seeing an instant uptick in sales for their brand when they did so. Yet when consumers were asked why they suddenly choose that particular beverage over another they would say things like “I haven’t the faintest idea, I just fell for it.” 

We all know that science has entered the age of the brain, and it's now a rush to understand how to read, predict and ultimately influence the brain's neurological systems - but I don't know how to react yet to the marketing tactic above. Perhaps this is also due to the argument that the sciences advance at way too quick of a pace for law or morality to catch up with them.

As the science of persuasion marches deep into the depths of the mind, I worry that marketers will really no longer appeal to our free will and our own natural, individual autonomous decision making processes (which is already a hard thing to argue in itself). No doubt subconscious tactics are used now a days in marketing to drive sales and brand awareness - but what will the future of this look like? 

Regardless - this book looks like a very good read! It's on my booklist now.