If you’ve ever been to a fast-food restaurant and wondered if all that blank space on cups and bags could be utilized for something more thoughtful, you weren’t alone. While some fast-food franchises like McDonald’s and Dairy Queen have added some banal trivia to the side of their cups and bags, it’s never been must-read type of information. If you were stuck somewhere and had nothing else to read, you might have taken two minutes of your time to read what was there. But what if you had something there that took you at least 10 minutes to read and with content you’d remember?
Chipotle has been steadily growing in doing things a little differently from their fast-food competition. They’ve done a better job on marketing themselves as a higher class Taco Bell where customer service is usually far better and with more varieties of Mexican food. The marketing department has also done something that nobody else thought of doing: Bring A-list writers to create little thought pieces to print on the side of their cups and bags. As prompted by an idea from writer Jonathan Safran Foer, Chipotle is now using these little think pieces and essays from various writers to take away the notion that fast-food restaurants have nothing to say in their products.
While all of the pieces are separate thoughts that stand apart from the restaurant, it’s an idea that’s still up in the air on customer reaction. Considered experimental now, do people really care to read things on the side of cups and bags in a store, or should they just be for decoration? In some people’s minds, it might be insulting that nobody would have anything better to read in a public place than something on the side of a paper bag.
It’s a debate worth having with your own marketing department if you’ve pondered the same thing for your own business. Are the surfaces of public giveaways a good place to promote some thought about a subject, or should you just use it for branding purposes from your own marketing department?
The Cultivating Thought Movement
There was an actual online movement involved in the creation of the above Chipotle think piece idea. Called Cultivating Thought, it’s meant to utilize writers to create content that gets people thinking about ideas in places where they don’t usually think about them. Fast-food restaurants have arguably been the last place where anyone wants to think while chowing down on food that doesn’t help the brain either. With that in mind, Chipotle might find out the fast-food environment isn’t the best place for such a thing. Perhaps in more sophisticated cities it might go over well, though you immediately sense that most people will toss out the bags and cups without even reading them.
What about other industries, though, that might be more in tune to having customers pay attention to those details? Retail stores might be a better location for the Cultivating Thought movement to find an audience, namely because people pay attention to the bags for non-edible items. Anything you’ll be eating is going to get the primary focus over an item you’ll be using for less exciting purposes (depending on what it is).
While the intention behind the Cultivating Thought movement is to not get political or create any agenda, you have to wonder what the reaction would be if think pieces were placed on grocery store bags. Giving health stories and ruminations on eating right would be one of the most useful employments of this thought movement in a place that’s been sorely neglected. Even if you could look at groceries as getting more focus than information on the bag, people are more apt to pay attention to the bag when they unload their groceries.
As Chipotle attempts to avoid any pieces about eating right, you can still ruminate on it without being political. It’s worth a think in the Cultivating Thought movement, plus worth a consideration if you own an independent grocery store where the bulk of customers don’t always buy the healthiest grocery items.