How Chipotle and Panera Bread are using Fear to sell their Products

How Chipotle and Panera Bread are using Fear to sell their Products


Corporate propaganda, and the promotion of a false reality

How high end fast food companies are using fear to sell products, by presenting consumers a false and misleading view of modern day agriculture.

While some fast food chains realize the value that farmers contribute to their food products, high end fast food chains like Chipotle and Panera Bread are increasingly spreading false information, and brandishing their marketing messages with anti-modern agriculture messages. In a competitive marketplace, these high end fast food companies are desperately trying to separate themselves from restaurants like McDonalds.

Ironically enough, McDonalds was the majority owner in Chipotle until 2006. Ever since then Chipotle has been trying to separate itself, and its reputation from being connected to the company that helped propel it to success.

So if you’re Chipotle, you need a way to separate yourself apart from the other fast food companies. You need and excuse to charge a higher than average price for your food. You need a value proposition.

A way to differentiate

Chipotle presents this value proposition though its brand and marketing campaigns. Chipotles slogan is “Food with Integrity,” but it could be argued that their marketing campaigns are filled with anything but integrity. If you look up the definition of integrity, you would see that integrity is defined as the quality of being honest, and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Many of Chipotles advertisement campaigns show a fantasy based portrayal of what modern day agriculture is. While Chipotles value proposition may sell burritos, it is spreading a false view of reality. Is that really the honest and upright thing to do.

Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, notes in an interview with USA Today that “We’re trying to educate people about where their food comes from.” It sounds like a noble cause, but is Chipotle really educating people about a true reality.

The False Reality

Chipotle’s false and misleading view of modern day agriculture “The scarecrow” video

Another video from Chipotle called “back to the start” also propagates a similar depiction of reality

Both these videos are cartoon fantasy worlds, albeit very depressing fantasy worlds. Both are extremely dreary and depressing videos. If you ask anyone if they would like to live in that sort of reality, everyone would adamantly exclaim no! Does anyone really want a reality of chickens being injected to blow up, or cows locked in boxes being continuously milked. No person with a soul wants that sort of reality. Both these videos do a great job at evoking the emotions of the viewers and tugging at their heart-strings.

The deceptive part of these videos is that they offer a false and misleading view of modern day agriculture. The problem is that these videos could be misconstrued as an accurate reflection of reality by people if the reality of agriculture is unknown to the viewer. Many people, who have never visited a farm, may simply assume that there is truth in these videos without researching the subject further. That is the true downside.

Panera Bread launched a campaign called EZ Chicken. The main basis of the campaign was that using antibiotics is the lazy way to raise chickens. Simply give your chicken antibiotics, and then your life as a farmer is easy. As if using antibiotics is the lazy way to take care of your animals. What about if the animal is sick, is treating that animal the lazy way out, or the right thing to do. Farmers are not lazy, and implying that they are for using antibiotics when necessary is just plain wrong.


panerabird3   panerabird

Panera’s EZ Chicken campaign implied that farmers are lazy for using antibiotics when necessary, even if it’s the humane thing to do (Source)

Misleading Messages

But it’s not just the videos or online content, Chipotle and other high end fast food chains like Panera Bread, are continuing this messaging in their stores. They put out information on their menus stating things such as hormone-free, or antibiotic-free. Does that mean that there are antibiotics in your food, and your food is free of hormones.


Menus at high end fast food chains like Panera Bread (featured above) put misleading information next to items stating things such as hormone-free, or antibiotic-free. (Source)

In fact, all your food must comply with government standards, and that includes strict regulation on antibiotic and hormone use on farms. All chicken and beef must meet the standards that the USDA has in place for antibiotic withholding, regardless of how the animal is raised. Milk and dairy products aren’t necessarily hormone-free; they naturally have hormones in them. But all milk and dairy must be antibiotic-free by law.

Using these kinds of labels on restaurant menus is manipulative. It implies that there are no hormones in food, hormones are bad, and implies that all other meat (meat at other restaurants) has antibiotics. Promoting these ideas this way does nothing more than confuse people of what reality truly really is.

Actual Reality – Farmers do care

So what is reality then. There are many farm blogs these days that are doing their best to show you what goes on at the farm, and how they take care of animals. The fact of the matter is that reality is much different than the way Chipotle and other high end fast food companies portray them to be. Farmers do care about the environment and the animals that are in their care. They take great measures to make sure the animals and resources in their care receive the best care possible.

The Udder Side  Dairy Carrie  Righteous Bacon

Three fantastic farm blogs that you should check out. Click on the picture to go to their sites

The stereotypical imagery of factory farms is absurd. We don’t lock cows into boxes, and continuously milk them. The cows get amazing care. The most productive cow is a happy, comfortable cow. Dairy farmers know that, so they give them the best. You can read more on my blog about how the cows are treated. They even have their diets prepared by an animal nutritionist. The cows eat a more healthy diet than you and I ever could.

The propagated myth is that America’s farms have been taken over by corporations, yet that is simply not true. The majority of farms in the U.S. are still family owned and operated. In California 99% of dairy farms are family owned. While farms have been growing larger, they have remained family owned and operated. That is an amazing fact that cannot be said for countless other industries today.


The cows have their nutritional needs calculated out by a animal nutritionist. The cows definitely eat a more healthy diet than you and I ever could

So if Chipotles fantasy world is not reality, then why propagate these myths and depressing depictions of modern day agriculture. I mean, what is the benefit to marketing a lie. Why propagate a false reality.

Well it’s a form of corporate propaganda. The entire goal is to influence the attitude of the consumers toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. The goal is to get you to believe the message. Why is it important for you to believe the message? Because quite simply – emotion sells.

Emotion Sells

Emotion is the driver of sales, and is actually a necessary part of making any decision. Inc. Magazine published an article “6 Emotions That Make Customers Buy.” The article states that buying decisions are always a result in the change of the customer’s emotional state. They note that all buying decisions stem from 6 emotions: (Source)

1. Greed. “If I make a decision now, I will be rewarded.”

2. Fear. “If I don’t make a decision now, I’m toast.”

3. Altruism. “If I make a decision now, I will help others.”

4. Envy. “If I don’t make a decision now, my competition will win.”

5. Pride. “If I make a decision now, I will look smart.”

6. Shame. “If I don’t make a decision now, I will look stupid.”

The article notes that every successful sales approach creates or augments one or more of these emotional states.

Do Chipotles ads evoke emotion, of course they do. All you have to do is read though the countless comments left by people who viewed the video.

Chipotle the scarecrow

Chipotle video

Viewers of Chipotle’s “the scarecrow video” note how emotional the video made them

Capturesss  Capturedd

Who wouldn’t feel saddened and angered at a cow being treated in this way, definitely very sad. No person wants this sort of reality

Chipotle’s advertisements are brilliant, because they present a fantasy world with a drastic outcome. Then they offer the solution to the problem. If you don’t want food made in a factory, eat at their restaurants because they are different than any other food company out there. They are working to create a better world.

When viewing Chipotle’s videos, you can easily notice that they evoke 2 emotions listed in Inc. Magazines list – primarily altruism and fear. So evoke these emotions from your customers, and get them to feel emotional about a dark, dreary vision of the future. This will make people want to take action. In other words

1. Fear. If I don’t make a decision now, our world will become dark, and dreary with chickens getting puffed up with injections, and cows being locked in metal boxes.

2. Altruism. If I make a decision now, I will make a positive change to our world. I will support a company that is fighting against corporate, factory farms.

We are Rationalizers

The true power behind advertising is to get you to respond to it emotionally and take action. Once emotion has caused you to take action, you then begin to rationalize. People buy things based on emotions, but then use logic to only justify their purchase. An article in Fast Company notes that:

When our emotional desires begin to shift toward a prospective brand, we align our reasons to be consistent with that intention. Our critical mind is always looking for evidence to support our beliefs. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the belief, and the greater the tendency is to seek out supporting evidence. We are not rational. We are rationalizers. (Source)

The problem is that even though we can know that marketers are setting us up to succumb to their marketing messages, we are powerless to stop them. We believe we are rational, logical creatures, but the fact of the matter is that we are not. Most of our day is spent running on subconscious programs. And while we don’t think advertising is affecting us, the messages are being delivered to your subconscious where they can take hold and influence you without notice.

Is Chipotle really different

Keep in mind that Chipotle is an actual corporation that is in the business of selling food that they make in their factories i.e. restaurants. They are in the business of selling you burritos, and that’s the bottom line. They are exploiting you and your emotions, using fear to sell their products.

Their marketing scheme is clever. Present a false reality though their marketing materials, then present a solution that everyone can get behind. You can feel good spending your money on their burritos, not only because it taste good, but because they are better than other fast food restaurants. They are offering you “food with integrity.”

I just think it’s a shame that “food with integrity” requires endorsing a false, misleading picture of modern day agriculture. In this case, it is the corporation (Chipotle) that is bullying America’s family farms.

I think this parody of Chipotle’s ad couldn’t be more accurate:


What do you think?

What do you think, am I right, or wrong. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below


    • Yeah so do I, it seems to be the new trend. I’m glad there’s other people out showing people what reality is though. You do a great job on your blog also!

  1. I really dont want to disappoint you, but the fact is, that a broiler in europe is treated with antibiotics during ten days if his 40-day-life and it is common that a dairy cow is tied half of the year so she can just stand and lay down in southern germany. This is reality. And this livestock breeding is necessary because of our enormous meat and milk consumption. It is just a result of our behaviour.

    • Michelle, how close are you to an actual farm? Have you ever been to a farm? Do we get our milk and meat from Germany?

      I know several farmers from across this country and can vouch for the care they take of their animals. It is their livelihood! Why would they treat something poorly and lower their production? Simple, they do not! They do everything they can to ensure a healthy herd and quality milk. Most of the mistreatment videos you will find are the exception, not the norm!

      • I am a veterinarian, so yes, I do know farms. And how old are the cows in your healthy herds, before they are slaughtered? No problems with metabolism diseases or the health of claws?

        It is just a messed up system and I know that the farmers are not to blame. They have to act economically.

  2. Thanks for the shout out! I am honored to be mentioned alongside Carrie and Diana. You did an excellent job of breaking down the marketing side of the ad and how our emotions are manipulated in order to drive sales. It is sad and disappointing that Chipotle doesn’t want to promote in a positive way, and instead insist on putting others down in order to build themselves up.

  3. Yes, that is absolutely right and they are definitely not better than others. And I know, that there are farmers, who really care about their animals and do a great job. But the majority is acting different and that is the shame.

  4. I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE. Chipotle is sharing the truth, we should go back to the start, where the farmers care.

  5. Michelle~Have you visited the majority of farms that are ‘acting different’? Can you back this statement with cited facts?

  6. So I’m confused. I thought the majority of the market share in livestock agriculture used intensive battery caged systems, or systems that prevented access to the outdoors. Is that not the case? Maybe many, many modern farmers use pastures, but I’m wondering about percentages. For example, do >50% of the farming companies keep animals in a concrete floored room for their life cycle (excluding transport, and switching between calf stage and milking stage)? Concrete is a rough thing to stand on, and a lack of sun shine is equally rough.

    Of course, this commercial doesn’t mean chipotle is pushing for pastured agriculture, but it certainly is pushing to bring awareness to food sources, and I don’t see the problem in that, unless there are unglamorous parts of the current ag system you feel are not necessary to show.

    • The majority of animal agriculture doesn’t confine animals in boxed cages, but are in fact trying to provide animals with the best care possible. Sometimes that means indoor housing to protect them from the elements. Systems like that provide plenty of ventilation, and temperature controlled systems to prevent the harmful effects of temperature swings. It’s like caring for your kids, the goal is to keep them alive and healthy. Dairy cows are raised differently throughout the U.S. because of weather, but in all cases they have plenty of open space to run and play with their herdmates

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