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Chipotle's Brilliant Branding Move

Chipotle's Brilliant Branding Move

Fast-food chain Chipotle has made a few missteps this year, from faking a Twitter hack in July , to facing criticism over reports that it might be changing its standards on the beef it uses

But if its most recent marketing efforts are any indication, Chipotle is holding firm with its commitment to serving only responsibly raised food. The company released a short film this week featuring a Tim Burtonesque scarecrow who has a moral crisis about his part in factory farming. The video includes a cover of "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory sung by animal rights activist and musician Fiona Apple. The video promotes a mobile app game which rewards players with a free burrito.

This is not the first time Chipotle has produced this type of video. In 2011, the company released a stop-motion short film to promote organic and sustainable farming, featuring a Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist."

The film was shown in movie theaters and the song was sold on iTunes, with 60 cents from every purchase benefiting the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which funds initiatives that support sustainable agriculture and family farming.

What makes these videos unique, aside from the high production quality and exclusivity of big name musicians covering popular songs, is the nearly non-existent branding (Chipotle's name and logo only appear for a few seconds at the end of the videos).

It's a lesson in subtle but powerful marketing -- create something that gives your customers a strong emotional connection to your brand that they will want to share and will spark a conversation, all without making them feel they are trying to be sold something. In other words, this is how you turn apathetic customers into brand ambassadors. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have a big budget and a few celebrities.

Related: What You Can Learn From the Simple Brilliance of Chipotle's Design

Kathleen Davis is an associate editor at Entrepreneur.com.

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