The Discreet Brilliance of Chipotle Junk / by Dan Weingrod

Chipotle’s new junk campaign is simply brilliant and almost too simple

A couple of days ago I saw an article on Mashable about a great new campaign by Chipotle that blew me away with its simplicity and elegance. The idea is simple: Forward your spam e-mail, (or frankly any e-mail), to and when the SPAM tally reaches 100,000 e-mails Chipotle will give away $10,000 to a The Lunch Box, an organization that supports healthy school lunches. This is such clever idea in so many ways I wish that I could steal it. At the same time it hits on so many great basics of social media that I’d love to be able to improve it. At the core of the idea is its utter simplicity and ease. Pick out a piece of spam, forward it and you're done. In return you receive an e-mail from Chipotlejunk thanking you and delicately inquiring if you would like to join their e-mail list. So why am I gushing about this? First of all I'm a huge fan of elegant executions: Take something you hate and quickly turn it into a feel-good moment for you and some kids, what can be better than that? Second, the frictionless level of interaction: Yes, a mere click would be easier, but dipping into the junk folder, clicking forward, adding an address and clicking send is pretty much second nature to us. Third, the smart connection built between “junk” e-mail and a fast food Brand that associates itself with quality organic ingredients. This creates a quick positive hit for Chipotle by associating its brand with positive nutrition, while moving it away from an association with “junk food”. Interestingly enough, Chipotle does not seem to be advertising this campaign in paid media, but it appears to have gained traction rapidly. As of today they have raised the "junk" ante ante from 100,000 pieces of spam to 500,000, but have also raised the reward to $50,000.

So how would I tinker with this apparent success? A day before I heard about ChipotleJunk I gave a talk about the elements of social media campaigns. As part of the discussion I used a slide borrowed from an excellent slideshare presentation by Alan Wolk “Your Brand Is Not My Friend”. I used the slide below to highlight what Wolk pointed to as some of the key components of Social Media campaigns. In my case, I added one additional component: Interaction – giving the end user the ability to share and collaborate.

Chipotlejunk cleverly provides entertainment and incentive, but while its interaction is in some ways its most successful point, a little more would not have hurt. For example, why not add a tag cloud on the microsite It would be wonderfully entertaining to get a cloud sampling of what junk we are all getting and contributing. We could find out if male anatomy words would ‘outstrip” female anatomy words, if Viagra beats Cialis or, if marketers are prime contributors, maybe “social media tips” would top the cloud. Another thought would be to create some level of personalization. Beyond letting the end user know that they had contributed give them an opportunity to return, engage and maybe even build competition around the contributions. This could take the form of a request in the thank you e-mail to add a username and avatar to a gallery or list which could tally the total contributions.

These ideas would be fun to execute, but would be icing on the cake of a clever, well executed Social Media campaign that shows us that sometimes success is all about simplicity.