Chipotle announces new miniseries for Hulu

At the start of November I put together ten video marketing predictions, and it’s pretty cool that – just one month into the new year – we’ve seen three of them play out.

This week fast food burrito brand Chipotle announced a new online miniseries of four short episodes set to premiere February 17 on Hulu. The satirical (and seemingly cheesy) “Farmed and Dangerous” holds the mirror up to industrial agriculture practices and takes episodic brand content to a whole new level.

Here’s a first look:

As Chris Arnold, Chipotle spokesperson told Bloomberg Businessweek: “Farmed and Dangerous is satire…The idea is to take a legitimate issue in ag as a starting point, but satirize it as a way to spark conversation…We find that bringing people into these discussions using entertainment is a very effective tool.”

Moreover, on the site dedicated to the series, Chipotle confirms, “It’s not everyday that a restaurant produces an original series…we’re dedicated to raising awareness about alternatives to factory farming.”

What this means for marketers

The future of the Internet really is TV
Chipotle is no stranger to online video having scored over 11 million views on YouTube with “The Scarecrow“. This latest effort is basically an extension of their marketing with online video via Hulu and could really go either way.

Nonetheless, based on the popularity of streaming media sites like Netflix and Hulu, on-demand video content is certainly the way of the future. The evolution of media simply dictates that brands will take the television experience (something familiar) and move what works (storytelling) to the Internet where more people are hanging out (millennials don’t subscribe to cable, but turn to the Internet instead).

More brands are becoming media companies
Chipotle isn’t the only company turning to the online episode format, let alone the only brand from the food industry, as evidenced by last week’s announcement from Whole Foods. According to Time online, The popular grocery chain will be working with Pivot to create a reality show about food sustainability called “Dark Rye”. The series evolved from their successful online content marketing of the same name.

With two major brands making these big media moves in January, it’s my bet there will be many more before the year ends.

Marketers are reaching customers in their living rooms
The eighth prediction in my Future of Video Marketing SlideShare was about brands starting to bring media experiences into living rooms through set top boxes and branded entertainment.

A branded series like Farmed and Dangerous available through Hulu is a perfect example of this because it’s in the half hour miniseries format online and many viewers are likely to use Apple TV to put the longer-form content up on their televisions for ease of viewing.

Packaging content in online episodes could help perpetuate the brand’s opinion on organic farming in the family living room if the content resonates with fans.

Does the series have potential?

Although cheesy – at least that was my first take – Chipotle’s story-focused content might work for the following reasons:

  • They’re using a non-disruptive medium: Because most people are now so selective with the content they consume, especially when it comes to advertising, Chipotle is delivering content you actively subscribe to instead. Rather than a pop-up ad on your iPad, it’s episodic content you opt-in to watch.
  • They’ve built a conflict: Chipotle is vilifying the industrial agriculture boardroom members in order to create a problem to be solved in the series. A good foundation for any branded content.
  • The conflict supports the “why” behind the brand: Staking their beef with industrial agriculture, Chipotle is using entertainment as a means of corporate activism. In an age where the brand’s target market is concerned about the nutritional value of fast food, this content could strike a chord.
  • They’re attempting humour: Dealing with what’s technically a dark topic, the brand doesn’t go the drama-route, but instead they’re attempting some dark humour to showcase the absurdity involved in our acceptance of processed food.
  • But how will media from a burrito brand fare?

    While it’s cool to see brands participate in this space, it certainly begs the question as to whether this media is going to be entertaining or whether it’ll feel like marketing (or worse, awkward).

    I have some reservations about this particular content based on the trailer because it has the potential to be a bit forced or miss the mark on humour, but we’ll have to see.

    What do You Think?

    Do you figure you’ll watch the four episodes? Let me know what you think about Chipotle and Whole Foods’ announcements and whether you think it’s a good idea for brands to invest in online series.

Michael Litt