Chipotle’s Content Marketing Team Now Includes Toni Morrison and Jonathan Safran Foer

They created the most viral animated videos of all time; then, they launched the major web series “Farmed and Dangerous.” Now, Chipotle is doing the impossible: bridging the gap between  burritos and America’s finest contemporary writers.

Wait, what? Who was the mastermind behind this unexpected partnership? None other than Jonathan Safran Foer, who came up with the idea when he was stranded at a Chipotle without a book to read. (And he didn’t yet own a smartphone.)

Vanity Fair has the scoop:

Suddenly, the Eating Animals author (and vegetarian) had an idea: What if there were something truly good to read on his Chipotle cup? Or the bag? A few years earlier, he had met Steve Ells, Chipotle’s C.E.O., so he decided to write the executive an e-mail. “I said, ‘I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them 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 recalled. “And unlike McDonald’s, it’s not like they’re selling their surfaces to the highest bidder. They had nothing on their bags. So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on it? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.’”

Starting this week, Chipotle customers can enjoy ten brand-new narratives printed on Chipotle cups. They’re a mix between essays, fiction, comedy and thought-provoking ideas. The stories are meant to entertain Chipotle’s customers, while introducing them to some of the most creative people of our time. Bonus: They come with awesome artwork as well.

Bill hader brand publishing Chipotle content marketing george saunders jonathan safran foer judd apatow Malcolm Gladwell michael lewis sarah silverman sheri fink steven pinker toni morrison CPG content marketing

Chipotle’s reputation as one of the most sustainable and responsible fast food chains motivated Safran Foer and other authors to be part of this project. Foer told Vanity Fair: “Chipotle refrained from meddling in the editorial process for the duration of the initiative, which the burrito chain has branded Cultivating Thought.” It was paramount for him “to help approximately 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds who somehow lack access to libraries, bookstores, or the internet.”

“We live in a world in which there is shrinking space for literature and writing, and less time than ever for quiet reflection,” Safran Foer told The Wall Street Journal. “The idea of expanding the space and time, of creating a small pocket of thoughtfulness right in the middle of the busy day, was inspiring to me—particularly given the size and diversity of the audience, which is America itself.”

Apparently, Chipotle’s content marketing efforts to bolster its reputation as a champion of food sustainability is working—at least for Safran Foer and his contemporaries. The impressive lineup of contributors includes the following ten notable writers:

  • Judd Apatow (Golden Globe-nominated writer, producer, and director)
  • Sheri Fink (Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter)
  • Jonathan Safran Foer (author of the book Eating Animals)
  • Malcolm Gladwell (New York Times bestselling author, journalist, and speaker)
  • Bill Hader (Emmy-winning comedian, actor, and producer)
  • Michael Lewis (New York Times bestselling author and journalist)
  • Toni Morrison (Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author)
  • Steven Pinker (one of my all-time favorite linguists; renowned writer on language, mind, and human nature, and award-winning experimental psychologist)
  • George Saunders (New York Times bestselling short-story and essay author)
  • Sarah Silverman (Emmy-winning actress and comedian)

You can read the text of three of the inaugural works in the Vanity Fair article: “Two-Minute Seduction” by Toni Morrison; “The Two-Minute Minute” by Michael Lewis; and “Two-Minute Personality Test” by Safran Foer. But here at Contently, we strongly advise that you take more than two minutes to consume a Chipotle burrito.

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