In a masterful marketing maneuver sure to make you forget all about some recent ugliness (starts was an E, ends with coli), Chipotle has completely changed its headline, turning attentions away from sick customers and towards the most adorable four minutes of animated feels you are likely to experience this year—provided you’ve already seen Finding Dory.
The ad centers on two young entrepreneurs running juice stands directly across from one another. It’s all very twee—the boy hawking orange juice has a crush on the lemonade stand girl and wants to earn money to take her to the movies, but as he attempts to increase traffic to his own stand to make said money, he hurts her stand’s profits, conflict ensues. Eventually, the two become lifelong rivals and build their juice stands into evil, profit-hungry fast food chains churning out mass-produced garbage in the name of the bottom line before realizing the error of their ways, falling in love, and forsaking the big bucks for a neighborhood food truck with drive-in movie nights—you get the picture. Quality, local ingredients and true love win out over the nasty big corporation. Oh, and there’s a dog.
The ad, which could more accurately be dubbed a short film, works for Chipotle on many levels. It’s cute, for one thing, with actual tear-jerking capabilities despite its brevity and association with tacos. It also cleverly shifts the narrative of Chipotle’s image from “big corporation selling you E. coli-filled burritos to turn a profit” (reality) to “nationwide chain who nonetheless bring a local, mom and pop feel to their customers by focusing on farm fresh ingredients and quality product” (charming fantasy).
This transformation of Chipotle’s perception may not be complete or even wholly accepted by the masses, but trust me–these four minutes of animation certainly achieve some lessening of general tensions. Honestly, I kind of felt like a burrito after I watched it. Don’t tell anyone.
Part of the ad’s effectiveness stems from its clever use of a slowed-down cover of the beloved Backstreet Boys 1999 anthem, “I Want It That Way.” Performed by Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. The cover not only provides an adorable backdrop to the slow-build relationship between two animated characters so endearing they don’t even have to speak, it also works on another, more nostalgic level. Marketing strategies have been relying on the drug-like effects of nostalgia for decades. It’s a fairly simple strategy: associate product with a song already associated by a good portion of the population with childhood, or good times, or any sort of pleasant memory, and bam–sales will follow. My friends who shelled out the big bucks to get a degree in marketing will probably tell you it’s a bit more complex than that, but as they’re not here I’ll continue in stride. The nineties has become a decade of nostalgic proportions only in recent years as my own generational cluster matures into adult (ish) consumers. You hear, “you are…my fire” and are instantly transported to another time and place–a better time when Jellies were still acceptable footwear and Gel Pens and inflatable bedroom furnishings abounded. As soon as the opening lyrics play, Chipotle has got you essentially manacled to a burrito bowl, and they know it.
And watch out, aspiring contestants on Legends of the Hidden Temple—Chipotle isn’t the only one attempting to cash in on your favorite hits from the nineties. Covers of popular songs from the nineties and early two thousands have spiked in recent years, even in recent months. Don’t believe me? Check out Craig Campbell getting all ironic a la Alanis Morissette, or scope the new, feminist remake of the Spice Girl’s video, “Wannabe” by Project Everyone. The nineties are becoming big business and a whole slew of artists and corporations are just waiting to cash in on your nostalgic longings.
Check out the short film here—you can use that napkin typically reserved for mopping up guacamole spills to dry your impending tears.