After battling since last summer to recover from a series of food contamination incidents, Chipotle Mexican Grill has released a new long-form video that returns to its pre-crisis brand messaging about the superiority of its fresh, natural ingredients over typical fast-food fare.
But the company not only continues to suffer significant brand and financial damage from the outbreaks that sickened numerous customers; it now also faces new negative publicity from the arrest this week of its chief marketing executive.
Mark Crumpacker, who joined Chipotle in January 2009 as the company’s first chief marketing officer and now holds the title chief creative and development officer, was arraigned in Manhattan on July 5, charged on seven counts of cocaine possession. He was put on administrative leave last week, following a media report that he had been among 18 people indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for alleged illegal drug buys.
According to Chipotle, the new video (below), “A Love Story,” began to be developed 18 months ago, before the restaurant chain’s first two contamination incidents in August 2015.
Those salmonella and norovirus incidents were followed in Fall 2015 by an E. coli outbreak, and then by separate norovirus incidents in December 2015 and March 2016. Chipotle cooperated with government investigators, voluntarily closed numerous restaurants to sanitize them, and instituted new food preparation processes, among other responses. But this past January, Chipotle announced that it had been served a grand jury subpoena over its handling of one of the August 2015 norovirus outbreaks, in California, that had sickened more than 200 people.
The new, four-minute video was posted on YouTube, Hulu, Chipotle’s site and other outlets on July 5, and will also be shown in movie theaters starting on July 8.
The creative is similar in tone and message to Chipotle’s two earlier animated videos. “Back to the Start,” 2011’s groundbreaking, movie-quality two-minute video criticized industrial farming, drove massive social media sharing and downloads, and was used as Chipotle’s first national TV ad, on 2012’s Grammy Awards. That was followed in 2013 with a similar long-form animated video, “The Scarecrow.”
The latest video’s story is about two children who set up competitive all-natural juice stands. As they grow up and establish real businesses, they resort to competing by offering increasingly processed fast food with artificial ingredients. Ultimately, they unite, fall in love, have a family and launch a food truck offering Chipotle-like items in synch with their original standards of natural ingredients and preparation.
In recent months, Chipotle has tried to revive its traffic and sales with free-food offers. But its Q1 2016 same-store sales were down 30%, and it reported its first loss as a public company. Its stock price has dropped by 35% over the past 12 months.
The new video ends by promoting its latest revival effort: a “summer rewards” program called Chiptopia.