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Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.: Strategy with a Higher Mission Or Farmed and Dangerous?

Sondra Simpson
November 1, 2015
North America
Strategy & General Management
22 pages
strategy, agriculture, vision, corporate social responsibility, CSR
Student Price: 
$4.00 (€3.69)
Average rating: 

“Boycott Chipotle: My Farm is Not Dangerous” one blogger’s headline read (Schmidt 2014). Another headline stated “Chipotle Unnecessarily Tears Down Agriculture to Build a Brand” and the article went on to ask “what kind of values would inspire a corporation to wage a smear campaign against America’s farmers?” (Sheely, 2014). But was that what Chipotle had intended to do? The agricultural industry was responding to the “Farmed and Dangerous” webisode series developed, with Chipotle’s backing, upon the heels of the brand’s successful short films “Back to the Start” and “Scarecrow”. The latter, a somewhat darker animated video, was a major piece of an integrated promotion that also included an iPhone/iPad video app and game. Both short films were entertaining, yet educational, videos introducing the concept of the dangers of industrial farming versus the benefits of naturally raised produce and meats on smaller family farms. Both ended with the message “Cultivate a Better World” and did not fully introduce the Chipotle brand until the last seconds of the videos.

Learning Outcomes: 

This is primarily a brand management strategy case. The purpose of this Chipotle case is to:

  1. Introduce the concept of higher purpose mission-driven brand management by considering brand resonance through Keller’s Customer Based Brand Equity model
  2. The four principles of Conscious Capitalism.

The students should have studied both of these concepts prior to reading the case (primers for each are included in the “Additional Pedagogical Materials section”). It should be noted that these lessons are contextualized in the decision to expand Chipotle’s content marketing strategy. However, the author’s intent is to provide students a framework for understanding higher mission strategy primarily, THEN, how brand integrity to that higher mission impacts decision making of brand marketing elements.

After completing this case study, a student should be able to successfully achieve the following learning objectives:

  1. Evaluate a brand’s organizational alignment to their mission.
  2. Assess how a brand delivers resonance by applying the strategic brand management tool, the Customer Based Brand Equity model.
  3. Evaluate how a brand embodies the four key principles of Conscious Capitalism.
  4. Formulate a content marketing recommendation, in context of strategic brand management and Conscious Capitalism.