Selling Elvis in the Age of Instagram

August 26th, 2014 by ddeal

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Image source: Vegas.com

Elvis never left the building after all. Seventeen years after his death, Elvis Presley remains one of the most lucrative names in show business. According to Forbes, he is the second wealthiest deceased celebrity, earning $55 million in 2013 through merchandising, licensing of his image, and his Graceland estate. And now, thanks to hologram technology, he will come to life in the digital age. Welcome to 21st Century branding, where yesterday’s artists can endure as immersive brands for a visual generation that speaks the language of Instagram and Vine.

According to Adweek‘s Michelle Castillo, Authentic Brands Group (which manages his estate) and Pulse Evolution are creating an Elvis hologram that will appear in commercials and movies — and host a residency in Macau and Las Vegas, the latter location being especially fitting given the legacy Elvis created in the 1970s through his extravagant shows at the Las Vegas Hilton. The residencies may even involve holograms of Elvis and Michael Jackson performing together (the King of Pop has already appeared at the Billboard Music Awards thanks to Pulse Evolution’s technology).

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Michael Jackson hologram appears onstage. Image source: Rollingstone.com

Jamie Salter, CEO of Authentic Brands Group, told Adweek, “We want you to go to the show and say, ‘Wow, oh my God! I saw Elvis 50, 60 years ago, and this is exactly the same thing.” But will the Elvis hologram appeal to a Millennial generation that never saw Elvis perform? I believe the virtual Elvis will resonate with both the Baby Boomer generation and Millennials for these reasons:

  • Elvis is a massive brand. Elvis lived large, died before his time, and captured the public’s imagination. As his standing in the annual Forbes list attests, his name is as big as ever. Everyone knows who Elvis is even if not everyone cares too much for his music, and name awareness is a strong foundation upon which to strengthen a brand.

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Image source: arts-stew.com

  • An Elvis hologram is tailor made for the concert experience, and concerts are one of the few reliable ways that the music industry can generate reliable revenue streams  across all generations (as I mentioned to Michelle Castillo in the Adweek article). Elvis was a charismatic performer onstage who engaged an audience. It makes perfect sense to bring him back for a residency, where all audiences, including Millennials, will see him in a new context.
  • A hologram is the perfect way to make a brand relevant to the Vine generation. Holograms are visual. Holograms are sexy. Holograms bring music to life visually. Elvis was a visually savvy musician who famously used both his body and his stage costumes to complement his singing.

Holograms will not work for every famous musician who has passed away. You need a musician with a strong brand, visual appeal, and a reputation for delivering memorable stage performances. We’ve already seen holograms create tremendous buzz for Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. I can easily see Jim Morrison, Freddie Mercury, and Whitney Houston some day returning as holograms. Elvis is a classic, cool brand launched in 1954 when he began recording at Sun Records, just as the Ford Mustang was launched in 1964. And now we can conceivably enjoy several “Elvis models”: the swaggering country boy in a gold lamé suit, the confident man in black leather, and the larger-than-life spectacle who changed the nature of live shows in Las Vegas.

Who do you think will get the hologram treatment next?




How Acting in a Renaissance Faire Has Made Me a Better Executive

August 18th, 2014 by ddeal

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Photo credit: Steven Bourelle

This summer, I have been living two lives. During the week, I am CEO of David J. Deal Consulting, helping companies build their brands with content marketing. But during the weekends, I transform myself into Nicolas Wright, a vainglorious barrister who walks a fine line between good and evil as he campaigns to be lord mayor of Bristol, England, in the year 1574. As a member of the cast for the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I have been scolded by Queen Elizabeth, robbed by gypsies, and stabbed with a bread loaf by a swashbuckling baker. On hot, humid days, my family and I, along with 400 cast members, wear layers of historically accurate clothing more suitable for a Chicago winter as we re-create the day when Queen Elizabeth visited Bristol, England, 440 years ago.

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Photo credit: Bristol Renaissance Faire

Why do I do it? Well, at age 51, I’m having a summer that children would envy. I am also learning lessons that are changing the way I do business and live my life — such as how to take a leap of faith, and the difference between elevating your customers instead of simply servicing them. Here is what I’ve learned so far.

1. Leap, and the Net Will Appear

I seldom make a decision without doing extensive homework. I don’t buy a bag of bagels without doing a cost/benefit analysis. But the Bristol Renaissance Faire has taught me the importance of making a decision based on faith in things unseen.

Bristol has been described as a cross between Williamsburg, Virginia, and environmental street theater. My family and I have attended for years because the make-believe Renaissance village north of Chicago hums with energy and good vibes as jugglers and fools mingle with courtiers, merchants, lute players, and all-around cool people. This year, we auditioned to join the cast in order to spread the joy that the faire has given us. We were excited when we all received the good news that we had become professional actors for 10 weekends this year. But when I told my friends and colleagues that our family had successfully auditioned for cast parts, I encountered plenty of skepticism — mostly in the form of polite but concerned questions such as, “Can you handle this kind of commitment?” “Won’t it get hot walking around all day in costumes?”

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Photo credit: Steven Bourelle

Indeed, being a cast member is a commitment. My wife, daughter, and I leave our home at 6:30 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday for a 55-mile drive one way, 10 weekends total during the hottest weeks of the year (plus five weekends of training and rehearsal onsite before opening day). Once we arrive at Bristol, we spend the morning preparing for a 10-hour, high-energy day of interacting with patrons who pay good money for an authentic, fun experience, rain or shine. On Saturday nights, we arrive home after 9 p.m. for precious rest before hitting the road again Sunday morning. By Sunday night, I am exhausted after portraying a bombastic barrister who campaigns Read more »




How Old-Time Radio Flourishes in the Digital Era

July 31st, 2014 by ddeal

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Photo Credit: Amanda Kulczewski

If you had visited Chicago’s Public House Theater on a recent June evening, you would have witnessed a most curious sight: a dozen actors and actresses adorned in 1940s-era suits, hats, and dresses gathered around microphones and performing an old-time radio comedy in front of a cheering crowd. You would have met a bearded ex-pirate named Captain Jonathan Sunset, four harmonious women sounding strikingly like the Andrews Sisters, the voluptuous Southern Belle, and a space-traveling detective named Joe Jupiter. Welcome to the world of Locked into Vacancy Entertainment (LIVE), a Chicago acting troupe that has re-imagined vintage radio shows for a digital society. In an exclusive interview, LIVE Founder Shane Hill shares with me lessons for making content from another era relevant and engaging to the Millennial generation.

LIVE, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, consists of actors and musicians who perform a mix of comedy and mystery just like radio programs of the 1940s and 1950s used to do. The group — described on its Facebook page as “Harnessing the Sticky Goo of Inspiration” — conceives of, and delivers, a whacky series of adventures featuring characters like the time-traveling Joe Jupiter (portrayed by Hill),who encounters a random assortment of aliens and oddballs while swapping random one-liners that sound like a cross between Adventure Time, Doctor Who, and radio noir. As Hill explains in the following interview, LIVE shows are geared toward families, both parents and kids alike. In doing so, LIVE has a seemingly formidable task: make an entertainment format relevant to Gen X, Y, and Millennials who were not alive in the golden era of radio.

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According to Hill, entertainment from the analog era, if done well, feels fresh because it’s new to the digital generation. And in a sense, by developing characters like Joe Jupiter and Captain Jonathan Sunset, LIVE is doing what Marvel Comics has accomplished on a larger scale by making World War II-era archetypes such as Captain America appeal to the present day.

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Unlike Marvel, LIVE relies on no computer-generated special effects. The LIVE shows are performed in the manner of vintage radio, using live music and sound effects in front of a live audience. LIVE then makes the shows available via podcast on its website and social channels — thus tapping into the surging podcast market.

LIVE performs every few months at the Public House Theater, with its next show occurring September 14. As Hill explains, LIVE is steadily expanding its audience beyond Chicago by sharing its shows digitally. The live shows reward an in-person audience with the visual appeal of a cast mugging as they read scripts into microphones, relying on their voices, clothing, and body English to create energy. On podcast, listeners create their own intimacy with the LIVE team and fill in the details with their imaginations as was done in the radio era.

“LIVE provides theater of the mind,” Hill explains. “Theater of the mind will appeal to anyone if it’s done right.”

Read on for our interview, which provides insight into an imaginative theater experience.

Describe Locked into Vacancy Entertainment in one sentence.

Locked into Vacancy Entertainment is an old-time radio experience with a modern-day approach.

Where did the idea for LIVE come from?

LIVE was inspired by The Thrilling Adventure Hour, a production in Los Angeles also captures the spirit of old-time radio. I have always loved those great radio comedies and mysteries that flourished decades ago, when radio was the primary way that American families brought entertainment and information to their homes. About a year ago, I found some old radio scripts for the holidays that inspired me. Some fellow actors and I agreed that those old scripts would still sound great in a podcast environment. We were inspired to create our own shows with original material. Conducting LIVE shows is like time travel: the audience and the cast together experience a form of entertainment and cultural expression that was popular many years ago.

Where did your love of radio entertainment shows originate? Read more »




Designing the Unseen Details

July 25th, 2014 by ddeal

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Superior design means getting little details right — even the parts that no one can see. In his landmark biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson tells the story of Jobs’s obsession to detail in the design of the breakthrough Apple II personal computer, down to the engineering of the power supply inside the computer. Jobs wanted the Apple II to provide power without needing to use a fan inside the unit because he believed fans were distracting. So he hired an engineer named Rod Holt, who created a new power system that was more efficient and superior to a fan-based supply. Isaacson writes:

Jobs’s father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design because the lines were not straight enough.

One of my favorite examples of designing the unseen details comes from Outpost Trading Company, which created this Beatles T shirt that depicts A Hard Day’s Night:

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The design really gets interesting on the inside, which no one but the owner can see. Beneath the Outpost Trading Company label is an awesome silhouette of the iconic Abbey Road album cover:

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The discerning eye might note that the Beatles look like they are walking the wrong way, going from the right side to the left, instead of the left-right sequence depicted on the album cover. But when you wear the T-shirt, the Beatles are walking left to right as they did on the cover — unseen to anyone, like a private joke shared with the shirt wearer.

The unseen details make the difference between an ordinary product and a special experience that rewards the buyer with a more personalized feel. Unseen details also create curiosity: I definitely want to learn more about Outpost Trading Company in addition to admiring the T shirt. Unseen details also send a message to customers: our brand trusts you. We trust you to take the time to notice something subtle about our product, and we trust that you’ll appreciate the effort we have taken to go the extra mile and do something other brands might not do.

These little details are often associated with premium products and services such as gourmet dining. But any kind of brand can embed unseen details in its products and services to achieve surprise and delight, as fast-food chain In-n-Out Burger has done with its “Secret Menu.” The Secret Menu originally consisted of custom-made food orders off the menu, available only if you knew to ask for them. The Secret Menu eventually became not very secret, but the concept still helps In-n-Out Burger position itself as a hip, even cult brand.

What are your favorite examples of unseen design?




How Four Teens Taught Brands a Real-Time Marketing Lesson

July 15th, 2014 by ddeal

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You have probably heard the story by now: a 16-year-old Omaha resident named Tom White is a media sensation thanks to an amateur photo of White grinning with Sir Paul McCartney and Warren Buffett. But Tom White and the three teenagers who helped him create the moment on the streets of Omaha are more than a passing story. They have taught brands a valuable lesson about how to do real-time marketing right.

As reported via an interview with CNN, on July 13, White, with the help of his friends Luke Koesters, Jacob Murray, and Drew Tvrdy, captured what appears to be a fortuitous brush with fame. Murray photographed White grinning and giving a thumbs-up while McCartney and Buffett sat casually on a bench looking like they were just shooting the breeze. After White posted the image on his Instagram account, the photo went viral. Within 48 hours, the image accumulated more than 4,800 likes and hundreds of comments. Paul McCartney tweeted the photo, and news media such as ABC, BuzzFeed, and Mashable covered the encounter.

Far from being a random moment, the viral photo is a result of four kids hustling to create their own news. Here’s what White and his friends did right — and what brands should be doing more consistently with real-time marketing:

  • Listened. On the evening of July 13, White’s friend Jacob Murray noticed an amateur Instagram post mentioning that Paul McCartney had been spotted on the streets of the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha. In fact, McCartney was in town for a concert and was going out for some ice cream with the legendary financial wizard Buffett, an Omaha resident. Murray did what many brands strive to do on a larger scale: performed some good old-fashioned social listening. Credit Murray for being hyperaware of a rapidly unfolding event.
  • Acted quickly. Uncovering an opportunity is one thing; acting on it is another matter. Murray quickly notified his friends of the Macca sighting. Koesters, Murray, Tvrdy, and White hustled over to Dundee with their smart phones and personal belongings to autograph, including a guitar and Abbey Road album cover. In the CNN interview, note how aware they were of the need for speed. White notes that by the time they arrived at Dundee, the Instagram photo that tipped them off was already seven minutes old — correctly noting that seven minutes is an eternity in the world of real-time marketing.

Read more »




New Report: Content Marketing Is “the Show Horse” of Customer Acquisition

July 7th, 2014 by ddeal

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Content marketing is the show horse of customer acquisition and retention — and second only to social media as a digital marketing spending priority among U.S. brands, according to my newly published report for Gigaom.

The report, Workhorses and Dark Horses: Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition, examines how companies use digital to acquire customers (beyond awareness building). Content marketing emerges as an essential priority along with email marketing, social media, and search engine optimization. Workhorses and Dark Horses counsels brands to apply content systematically across digital touch points to guide prospects them along a path to acquisition and conversion.

64 Percent of Marketers Use Content Marketing Regularly

Workhorses and Dark Horses is based on a new Gigaom survey of 300 U.S. digital marketers. We wanted to understand how brands are using digital marketing tactics across the marketing funnel, spanning awareness, customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. We also asked marketers to tell us about their 2014 spending priorities. Our survey affirms that digital marketing is being used consistently across the entire customer experience. Here’s what we learned about content marketing:

  • 64 percent of marketers use content marketing regularly, making content marketing the fourth most popular tactic behind email, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO). The popularity of both content marketing and SEO together underscores the importance of inbound marketing.

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  • Marketers find content marketing most useful for awareness building and customer retention.

Read more »




Email and Referral Marketing: The Workhorse and Dark Horse for Customer Acquisition

July 1st, 2014 by ddeal

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Digital long ago established itself as a channel for brand building and direct marketing. But what are the most popular digital tools for acquiring customers? According to my newly published report for Gigaom Research, the unsexy tactic of email marketing is a digital workhorse, popular for awareness building, and customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. And referral marketing, not used as widely as other tactics, provides an especially strong payoff for its practitioners. My report suggests to marketers that acquiring customers in the digital era is like creating a mosaic: to achieve a beautiful outcome, companies need to apply the right blend of tactics. For instance, brands should consider using social media and referral marketing to complement lists created for email campaigns.

The report, Workhorses and Dark Horses: Digital Tactics for Customer Acquisition, is based on a Gigaom survey of 300 U.S. digital marketers. We wanted to understand how they are using digital marketing tactics across the marketing funnel, spanning awareness, customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. Our survey affirms that digital marketing is being used consistently across the entire customer experience.

Marketers told us that social media, already well known as an awareness-building tool, is also particularly useful for customer retention. Content marketing is especially useful for awareness and retention. And email is consistently used across the entire marketing funnel.

Digital Marketing Spend Set to Increase

Here are the key findings of our survey:

  • Nearly 60 percent of companies plan to increase their digital marketing spend in 2014.
  • Email marketing is the digital workhorse, deemed the most effective (relative to other digital tactics) for building awareness, acquisition, retention, and conversion. In fact, 56 percent of respondents identified email as being the most effective at retention, several points ahead of the second-most-effective tactic.
  • Social spending is set to increase, but we discern some buying on faith with social. More marketers plan to spend more on social media marketing than any other digital tactic. But when we asked marketers to describe their perceptions of social media marketing, more marketers agreed with the statement “It is difficult to prove ROI for social media marketing” than with any other statement.
  • Referral marketing is a digital marketing dark horse. Only 39 percent of marketers use it regularly, but 43 percent of those who do use it acquire more than 35 percent of their new customers with it. These numbers are double the percentage of marketers who report such acquisition rates using email. Brands that invest in referral can gain a competitive advantage over those investing elsewhere.

Read more »




7 Ways to Make a Content Junkie Cry

June 20th, 2014 by ddeal

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I am a content junkie. I read, watch, and listen to anything. The New Yorker, Vice, Rolling Stone, my daughter’s Instagrams, or Vine selfies from people I don’t even know: everything is fair game to be consumed at my all-you-can-eat content buffet. I even check my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds before I’m fully conscious of being awake in the morning. So it takes a lot (and I mean a lot) to lose me as an audience. And yet, some content publishers are trying very hard to do just that by polluting the digital world with tired, annoying content ranging from clickbait headlines to quizzes that test our tolerance for cultural trivia. Here are seven types of content that are ready for retirement now:

1. Stories that wallow in epic failure. 

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 2. Clickbait headlines. (Thank you, @SavedYouAClick.)

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3. 99.9 percent of all memes . . .

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. . . especially involving this kid:

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4. Political rants on social media. Hearts and minds remain unmoved. 

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5. Pop culture quizzes.

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 6. Definitely this guy. Everywhere. Every moment.

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 7. Articles that scold me for doing everything wrong.

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And what kind of content should make me vomit but doesn’t? Well, I know I’m destroying all crediblity here, but I’m a sucker for photos of cats doing strange things, and I can’t get enough of those YouTube clips of crazy Russian daredevils dangling off buildings and balancing themselves on tiny steel beams hundreds of feet in the air (although I usually keep all those posts to myself when I see them).  And that’s the rub: my inspiration is your soul-sucking waste of time. The lesson? Content is all about context. Content creates an audience, even momentarily. Content with context — shared at the right time to the right person — creates a loyal audience.

OK: what’s on your list of content that makes you want to curse the day the Internet was born?




Apple Buys Beats: The End of an Era for Apple and Dr. Dre?

May 29th, 2014 by ddeal

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Now that Apple has officially purchased Beats Music and Beats Electronics, we are left to ponder its broader meanings as the man who once rapped about gangbanging and reefer now becomes a high-profile Apple employee. I believe the deal symbolizes the possible end of an era: an end to Apple as an innovative brand, and a farewell to Dr. Dre as a music maker.

The Deal

As reported widely, Apple officially acquired music service Beats Music and Beats Electronics (which makes Beats headphones, speakers and audio software) for a total purchase price of $2.6 billion. As part of the deal, Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre have joined Apple to take on unspecified roles.

The acquisition is widely viewed as Apple playing catch-up to streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. Apple’s own press release stressed the importance of Beats Music. As a sign of respect for the Beats brand (and lack of belief in its own), Apple will keep the subscription Beats Music intact, alongside Apple’s own iTunes Radio. Beats Music has hardly taken the world by storm as a streaming competitor to Spotify and Pandora since being launched in January 2014. But Apple Insider reports that the service has a strong conversion rate, with the vast majority of tracks being streamed by paying customers. Meantime, iTunes, which relies on a download model, has seen its sales slump as consumers latch on to streaming services. iTunes Radio, Apple’s answer to streaming, has yet to take hold.

Apple Buys into Innovation

When I first heard the rumors of Apple buying Beats weeks ago, I remembered back in 2011 Farhad Manjoo of Fast Company touting Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google as the four economic titans fueling the “great tech war,” pitted against each other in a “battle for the future of the digital economy.” Apple emerged as the clear favorite of consumer innovation, reeling off one game-changing product after another. Facebook? Well, Mark Zuckerberg was riding the momentum of a business built off one compelling idea, that as naturally social creatures, human beings would flock to a digital place where we could emulate our offline social behaviors online. But on top of the core innovation of launching Facebook, Zuckerberg’s massive wealth, and Facebook’s phenomenal growth, was built off pedestrian advertising programs and ongoing tweaks to the core product as opposed to anything newsworthy (unless by “newsworthy” we want to count noticeable gaffes such as Beacon).

Read more »




Jimmy Page Shares Three Lessons for Content Marketers

May 22nd, 2014 by ddeal

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Jimmy Page: legendary guitarist, producer, all-around rock god . . . and a marketing teacher. Yes, the guitar magus knows marketing in addition to music. He not only founded Led Zeppelin but also influenced the band’s image, down to crucial details such as the choice of album artwork (most famously for Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album) and Led Zeppelin’s visual presentation in concert. Of course Led Zeppelin became one of the most successful rock groups ever. So when Page conducted an exclusive interview with the Berklee College of Music to discuss his career, as a marketer I watched the video interview closely. I listened to his ideas through the lens of content marketing given the nature of much of my own professional work. Even though marketing was not the focus of the conversation, Page is so image-savvy that he shared some useful marketing advice even when he wasn’t trying — especially about the importance of over delivering to your audience, being eclectic, and always learning.

1. Over deliver to your audience

In the interview, Page recounts the time when, early in its career, Led Zeppelin began building a loyal fan following by playing explosive concerts that could stretch for as long as three hours — even though the band had only one album’s worth of material under its belt.

Recalling the first time the band ever played a three-hour show, he says, “In the very early days we had only one album out, and the audience just wouldn’t let us go — they wanted more, and more, and more. In the end, we exhausted anything that any of us knew individually or collectively.”

In due course, Led Zeppelin would become renowned for performing mind-blowing shows, combining the power of the band’s music with a flair for the theatrical (as evidenced with Page’s choice of exotic stage garb). The band’s dedication paid off: by 1973, Led Zeppelin was playing to more than 56,000 people at Tampa Stadium, breaking an attendance record set by the Beatles at Shea Stadium.

Do you over deliver to your audience with your content marketing? Chipotle Mexican Grill certainly does. Content Marketing expert Joe Pulizzi says that Chipotle takes a “24/7″ approach to branded content. For instance, in 2013, Chipotle created a digital video and game, The Scarecrow, to spark a consumer conversation about industrial farming. Chipotle pulled out all the Read more »