Maybe you think of something you have to do later that day – or think about the someone with whom you plan to do whatever you're going to do later. You trace a letter on your drink cup’s condensation.
Then a thought stirs to life …
That’s what happened to author Johanthan Safron Foer (Eating Animals) one day while enjoying a meal at Chipotle Mexican Grill.
An idea was born – and he emailed Chipotle’s CEO about it:
“I bet (that some of the people who) go into your restaurants every day … have very similar experiences, and even if they didn’t have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text,” Foer related to Vanity Fair’s VF Daily online column, quoting his email. “So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on (your cups)? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.’”
CEO Steve Ells bought the idea. High quality writers were solicited (10 out of 50 said yes). And Chipotle’s new Cultivating Thoughts cups now stimulate their guests with a variety of short essays, fiction and comedy by authors the like of Safran Foer, Malcom Gladwell, Toni Morrison and Sarah Silverman.
The idea was one of those intuitive flashes we all get from time to time, only Safran Foer did something with his. And what pleases him most is “800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing,” many of whom don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores.
The project was launched in May and is said to reach a million people per day in the 40 states where Chipotle has restaurants. But the jury’s still out on what impact it may have on the chain’s brand perception and business. Some say the highbrow writing is a mismatch to Chipotle’s demographic (give people credit for having a brain, eh?), although the chain is known for producing content that "aims to change the way people think about and eat fast food,” according to Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer. There's also a fair amount of angst being expressed online because not one of the first ten writers selected was Mexican.
All in all, Cultivating Thoughts seems a splendid idea that’s bound to be taken up elsewhere with different writers and ideas.
TakeAway: Don’t let those sudden inspirations slip away. The idea you have today may be your marketing success tomorrow.
Tags: Chipotle Mexican Grill
About Brian Faulkner:
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Brian also is a three-time Emmy award winning Public Television writer and narrator of UNC-TV’s popular Our State magazine series, on the air since 2003.