The initiative includes a game and a video that have generated 250,000 downloads and 4.3 million views since their debut.
Quick service chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has a new weapon in its fight against industrial food production: The Scarecrow, an "arcade-style adventure game" for Apple devices and a companion animated short film, introduce issues about food and agriculture and allow customers help cultivate a better world - at least virtually - while engaging with the content.
Released September 12, the game had about 35,000 downloads in its first day and was up to 250,000 by September 16.
Also as of September 16, the video had 4.4 million views on YouTube - up from 860,000 three days prior.
Both the game and the film depict a scarecrow's journey to bring good food back to the people by providing an alternative to processed food, Chipotle says. They were created in partnership with Moonbot Studios and CAA Marketing.
According to Chipotle, the game educates people about industrial food production by allowing players to correct the wrongs committed by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods.
"The idea of the Scarecrow is essentially to use entertainment to educate people about complicated food issues. That's something that has been part of our marketing for a few years now," says Chipotle representative Chris Arnold.
That includes the previous film Back to the Start, which was uploaded to YouTube on August 25, 2011 and has since racked up 7.7 million views:
When Back to the Start aired on TV during the Grammys, Arnold says "social media channels lit up the conversation about it and the issues contained in the film and then it was kind of over."
This time around, the brand hopes The Scarecrow will keep consumers engaged longer.
"The film introduces characters and issues and introduces the game and [consumers] download game and it's a way for people to be engaged on an ongoing basis," Arnold says. "The farther you go, the more of the industrial food wrongs that you undo and the more beautiful the Scarecrow's world becomes."
As an incentive to complete the game, Chipotle is providing rewards redeemable at any of its 1,500 locations. The rewards are distributed electronically to players who earn at least three stars in each world. That includes buy one, get one free coupons, Arnold says.
"The underlying issues in food and agriculture are pretty foreign to a lot of people and pretty inaccessible to a lot of people and by packaging information about these issues around entertainment, it makes them more accessible and engaging to consumers that don't otherwise pay a whole lot of attention," Arnold says.
The game is available for free download on iTunes and the short film can be viewed on the Scarecrow Game website, as well as on YouTube.
Chipotle has no plans to release an Android version.
"There are so many different devices on Android to design a game that works well on all of them is much more difficult, time consuming and more expensive, so we focused on Apple for that reason and because a strong majority of downloading game revenue comes through the iTunes store - it's really still a dominant place where people look for games," Arnold says.
Chipotle says it offers burritos, tacos, burrito bowls and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients prepared using classic cooking methods. Through its vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle says it seeks better food using ingredients that are fresh, as well as sustainably grown and responsibly raised with respect for the animals, the land and the farmers where possible.
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In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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