But while these past efforts have been hailed as harbingers of marketing’s future, its newest campaign is decidedly old school. For “Cultivating Thought,” the brand has teamed with writer Jonathan Safran Foer to put his writing, along with works from George Saunders, Toni Morrison, Michael Lewis, Bill Hader, Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, and more on its cups and food bags.
According to Safran Foer, the writer approached Chipotle CEO Steve Ells with the idea after wanting to “die with frustration” when he had nothing to read while eating his meal. Foer chose and recruited each contributor to the project.
The campaign’s site breaks down the author series and its participants, including short Q&As with each writer. The company says this is part of its goal to change the way people think about and eat fast food. In a statement, Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crumpacker says that while most fast food restaurants typically sell packaging space to advertisers, or use it to promote new limited-time menu items, Chipotle never has. “Chipotle is a very different kind of restaurant company and our marketing very much reflects that,” says Crumpacker. “With this program, we simply wanted to give people something entertaining and interesting to read. We thought something like this would be a nice break from the norm.”
Foer sparked some online eye-rolling with a comment that, despite most of the burrito-eating hoi polloi having a smartphone in their pocket, what interested him most about the project was “800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”