Integrated Marketing Success: Chipotle’s Brilliant & Beautiful Scarecrow

Ladies and gents, it’s rare for a marketing initiative to take my breath away in both the brilliance and the beauty of the campaign. In fact, the only other example I can think of is the Stride sponsorship of Matt Harding.

But, I sit before you today utterly amazed, bewitched and inspired by Chipotle’s new bid for dominance in the sustainable/organic space – what they call  “food with integrity.”

The campaign begins with the release of a mesmerizing animated story called Scarecrow, created by CAA Marketing and MOONBOT Studios and featuring the ethereal voice of Fiona Apple, singing Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination.” (full video below)


The “ad” does not feature the Chipotle brand. Instead, it tells the story the brand wants told. The story Chipotle wants to be associated with in our minds as “the hero.” 

So, we are presented – beautifully presented – with the story of a dystopian world where all food production is genetically modified. This is a world where scarecrows no longer play their traditional role of protecting real, actual food. They are now servants to the factory system, Crow Foods. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable  factory food.

The short film – because it is most assuredly that – was originally introduced online and in movie theaters in select U.S. cities and has already amassed more than 5 million views. This short is a follow up to the 2012 Cannes Grand Prix winner “Back to the Start,” a charming animated look at the brand’s approach to locally sourced products that was watched by over 7.5 million people online.

Chipotle has often shied away from traditional advertising on TV, believing its target audience — Millennials — “are skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves.” And, the true virality of their content shows it’s working.


Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 4.54.35 PMBut, wait, there’s more than just a beautiful video to watch. There is a game that accompanies the commercial, which is available for free  at the Apple App Store. Another brilliant move, providing free, engaging content.

In a truly stunning example of strategic integration, the game allows users to visit the animated world and correct the wrongs committed by Crow Foods. And, just like in the short, the player is not relentlessly exposed to branding. There is clear branding at the download page and Chipotle features the Scarecrow content on their web site and social channels. But, they are ultimately relying on the consumer to make the connection. Something, I think is easily done when you inform and entertain in such a memorable and on-message way.

Designed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, the game allows players to fly through the city of Plenty to transport confined animals to open pastures, fill fields with diverse crops at Scarecrow Farms, and serve wholesome food to the citizens at PlentyFull Plaza, all while avoiding menacing Crowbots. With each level, the city of Plenty becomes more and more beautiful, just how the scarecrow remembers it to be.

“The more people learn about where their food comes from and how it is prepared, the more likely they are to seek out high-quality, classically prepared food like we serve in our restaurants,” said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle. “We created ‘The Scarecrow’ game and film as an entertaining and engaging way to help people better understand the difference between processed food and the real thing.”


As an incentive for players to complete the game and a means to re-connect the brand to the content, Chipotle is providing food rewards redeemable at any of its 1,500-plus U.S., Canada and UK locations. The rewards are distributed electronically to players who earn at least three stars out of five in each world and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Our companies are a great fit because we both care deeply about what we do and doing it right,” said Brandon Oldenburg, creative partner at Moonbot Studios. “At Moonbot, we must have meaning in what we create. ‘The Scarecrow’ story has it: imagination, heart and a sense of play.”

Since parting ways with its former corporate owner, McDonald’s, Chipotle has struggled to establish itself as a leader in sustainability and non-GMO foods.  Back in July, the company announced plans to become the first US restaurant chain to strip its menu items of all genetically engineered ingredients, a great message that wasn’t widely heard.

Clearly, with this remarkable campaign, Chipotle hopes to officially cement its status as a fast food chain that serve actual, real food. And, as far as I can tell, this beautiful film and integrated app-game will accomplish exactly that. Well done, Chipotle. Truly, thank you for a brilliant strategy beautifully executed.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I LOVE Chipotle in large part because of their stance on sustainable and wholesome/healthy food for the masses. The fact that they offer a superior product should perhaps take precedence, but for me it goes hand in hand with their philosophy. Much applause to them for this masterful short!

  2. I saw this at a social media conference in Boston last week. It was mesmerized the audience and brought tears. It definitely takes content marketing and gamification to a new level. Sad and haunting, yes, but that’s what makes it effective– because it’s “real.” If it weren’t based on actual societal practices, then it would not be so haunting. I can still clearly envision the cow in the crate and the look on its face. I was sitting beside three attendees from a very well-known company that is under constant scrutiny for their food practices. That was an interesting (read: awkward) moment.

  3. I saw this at a social media conference in Boston last week. It mesmerized the audience and brought tears. It definitely takes the concept of content marketing and gamification to the next level. Sad and haunting, yes, but that’s what makes it effective because it’s “real,” based on actual societal practices. Had it just been an arbitrary fictional piece, it would not have been so haunting. I was sitting beside three conference attendees from a very well-known company that is under continuous scrutiny for its environmental/food practices, and the presenter mentioned the company’s name in his follow-up after showing the video. Which made an even more interesting (read: awkward) moment.

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