Think about the last time you told a story your audience loved. In this story, what was at stake?
According to the folks at The Moth, stakes are essential in great storytelling. Stakes define what the characters, and perhaps the audience, stand to gain or lose.
For the marketing storytellers at Chipotle Mexican Grill, the question of what’s at stake can be answered by what’s in steak. Every story told by its content team falls under the “Food with Integrity” guiding mantra: Locally and responsibly sourced food is better for customers and the environment. For Chipotle, this is a story about the stakes of people and chickens and cows and the soil beneath organic corn.
Thanks to a content marketing plan focused on this story, not its products, Chipotle has seen the highest growth in the fast-casual dining industry over the last decade. In 2014, Chipotle reported revenue increased by 24.4% while spending only 2% of total revenue on advertising.
The recipe for Chipotle’s meteoric rise starts with meticulously prepared storytelling. So how do you tell a brand story like Chipotle? It starts with raising the stakes.
First, Know Your Story
In 2011, the marketing team at Chipotle was determined to tell a story of real consequence, rather than, say, dance a burrito across a banner ad. Chipotle wanted to create content that challenges consumer decision-making, related not just to last-minute dinner options, but issues you might bring up after dinner is served.
So Chipotle went to work brainstorming a narrative before deciding on the medium with which this story would be told. Too often marketers start with a canvas, be it a blog or a Twitter account, and hope to find the story within that frame. But in building a story on its own, content can then dictate delivery.
The result of Chipotle’s story-driven plan? “Back to the Start,” a two-minute animated video launched on YouTube. In this short film, a disheartened pig farmer rejects the industrial farming model and returns to a more traditional, humane practice. Willie Nelson (Farm Aid supporter) covers Coldplay (Make Trade Fair lobbyists) for the video’s devastating soundtrack.