Call it fate, call it karma or just bad luck but Chipotle, a U.S. Tex-Mex restaurant has had a bit of bad time recently when it's come to publicity. First it was an E. Coli scare that shut down many of their restaurants and was a twist of irony due to their reputation for selling meat from socially responsible free range animals. Now there's this, a 300 calorie Chorizo burrito that no one in their right minds would a) buy on a diet, and b) believe the hype.
Where in the marketing process did this get approved? Did they forget the decimal? Did they ask Jared Fogle? I can't believe they meant 3000 calories (which is more likely the case) and you can't tell me that this made it all the way up the chain of command, was approved, and then rolled out to countless stores without someone suggesting that this is one the most idiotic advertising blunders in the history of meat wrapped in flat-bread?
Now customers in Los Angeles are filing a class action lawsuit against Chipotle over the false advertising of the nutritional information. Chipotle's only response...
"I'm sorry for the confusion, but we'll make things more clear next time. The 300 calories is for the chorizo [alone]."That didn't feel like much of an apology to me. It certainly lacks empathy and doesn't explain where in the process this all went wrong. We're talking chorizo people, Mexican sausage. That's a little bit of meat, a lot of mystery by-products, ground with a ton of fat. It doesn't even remotely say "I'm a health food". If I'm ordering a chorizo burrito then I've likely just got off the phone with the insurance company because I've burnt down the house by running my car through the living room, because my dog died and I broke up with my partner or they announce an asteroid is heading for Earth. Wait, no that's a hyperbole. The truth is if I want a burrito, I'll eat one and I want accurate nutritional information to decide if it fits into my dietary needs or if I need to wear my stretchy pants to the office tomorrow. See the difference? Chipotle might like us to believe it's "confusion" because they've stretched the definition of health by listing only the chorizo meat for 300 calories, but what they've really done is broken the trust with consumers with their lack transparency and integrity that a corporation, supposedly based on social responsibility, is supposed to have.
...And that's what gives public relations a bad name: lying (or manipulation). I hate it. No doubt, many companies have had less than honest intentions in marketing in the past but look at them now? Look at Volkswagen in their emissions scandal or the cigarette Goliaths of thirty years ago. In my opinion, a product (or service) should sell itself, and the role of marketing and public relations is to ensure the transparent exchange of communication to inform and educate consumers while building brand integrity. Sure you can play dirty with your pr, but everything happens for a reason and you better be prepared for the risks of karma when you have a three pound burrito in your hand and the elevator cable snaps.