Chipotle's Marketing

By now, I'm sure many of you have seen Chipotle's newest video release, the Scarecrow.  The video, released about a week ago, uses vivid imagery to decry "factory farming." Better still, there is an accompanying video game!

I like to eat at Chipotle, but this video comes across as a bit disingenuous.  The restaurant is now a multinational operation with 1400 stores.  Some of the images are downright misleading (e.g., chickens are not given growth hormones), and others are merely suggestive (e.g., that Chipotle is fundamentally different than other restaurant chains, when in many important respects it is not).  

I had a hard time distilling my thoughts on the matter, but fortunately the blogger (and hog farmer) Diana Prichard did all the hard work f in a series of thoughtful posts on the issue (part 1, part 2, part 3 is forthcoming).  

Her conclusion in part 2 was brilliant.

Why did it matter so much? Because Chipotle has exalted itself as an ethical corporation among the throngs of unethical corporations, but in The Scarecrow Chipotle sits atop a high horse of its own creation mocking the same qualities in others that its own behavior embodies. I don’t know about you, but I call that hypocrisy of the worst kind.
I chose the pictures in this post deliberately because green washing and transparency is a theme The Scarecrow broaches repeatedly. The Scarecrow stares at a factory wall painted to look like a farm, peers behind broken boards of an “all natural” poultry billboard to see a chicken being injected with… something. [Choptle's corporate spokesperson] himself told me that they’re interested in transparency in the food system, and argued they’re “not the ones championing “ag gag” laws that make it illegal to document what happens in our food system.”* Yet at the same time Chipotle is engaging in behavior we could easily coin “ethics washing.”
By elevating itself as an ethical company, but then turning around and only acting ethically when it benefits them Chipotle is ethics washing their own company and products. It would be more ethical to market their stores in such a way that is not blatantly inaccurate slander of farmers, but that won’t sell as many burritos so they have no interest. Not only is Chipotle misleading consumers on issues of agriculture and the food system, they’re misleading consumers on their own company’s principles and standards of conduct. Chipotle’s Scarecrow paints “a world of pure imagination,” indeed — one in which Chipotle is far more morally astute than they really are.