Chipotle’s recent financial results have revealed a successful third quarter of 2013 as compared to the third quarter of 2012, with revenue increased 18.0% to $826.9 million.

With the notorious scarecrow ad (and downloadable song and game and all round worthy cause) released on September 12th, it’s conceivable that the last three weeks have played a part in the strong financial performance.

The scarecrow video was released solely online, and has been viewed 7m times on YouTube. There’s a nice responsive microsite for the ad and game, too. ‘As an incentive for players to complete the game, Chipotle is providing food rewards redeemable at any of its U.S., Canada and UK locations.’ 

Never has a scarecrow started such debate. You can watch the ad below, and the delicious Funny Or Die parody. 

CMO Mark Crumpacker’s summation of the campaign is indicative of the video’s level of twee, and for some people the ad was too far.

In many ways, ‘The Scarecrow,’ represents what we aspire to accomplish through our vision of Food With Integrity,

In a system that is so heavily dominated by industrial agriculture and factory farms, we are committed to finding better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use and to helping build a better food system, much the same as the character in ‘The Scarecrow’ is taking important steps to fix what he perceives as being broken in his world.

Essentially, many commentators believe that Chipotle did itself a disservice, turning some people off the brand.

Some think the ad actually promotes full-on veganism, not ethically sourced meat at Chipotle.

The debate:

  • Chipotle uses locally sourced ingredients and raises lots of money for charities working towards sustainable farming.
  • BUT Chipotle uses other chicken and beef when its naturally raised meat is in short supply. 
  • Chipotle’s ad paints the rest of agriculture as downright evil, and this has made some farmers angry.

Behind all the hand-wringing, there’s actually some solid marketing. The fact that the ad wasn’t released on TV, and that the brand was hardly used in the video is fairly revolutionary.

It’s ‘cause marketing’ and Chipotle is relying on its community to spread the video. 

Whether we can say that three weeks of sales as part of a bumper Q3 is big news, I don’t know. But I’m inclined to believe that all PR is still good PR, as long as the quality of the product isn’t cast into doubt.

In Chipotle’s case, for all the preaching, the food is still sourced in a more ethical and sustainable way than the majority of fast food competitors.