Chipotle asked, “must a cup, or bag, suffer an existence that is limited to just one humble purpose, defined merely by its simple function?”

The answer is no as evidenced by “Cultivating Thought,” a series of printed short works from 10 famous writers on Chipotle cups and bags. The concept, while unexpected in context of the brand, could be just what the fast-food chain needed to elevate perceptions of quality.

In the past few years, Chipotle has worked to educate consumers about “food with integrity”. They’ve capitalized on quality ingredients as their point of differentiation in the fast-food category. If you’re Chipotle, or a high-quality grocery brand, how do you communicate your worth to consumers beyond echoing the ingredient list?

You align your brand with consumer aspirations. In the fast-food category, we have brand symbols ranging from a redheaded clown character to a talking Chihuahua. Chipotle took a radically different approach and tapped into the goal of aspirational consumers: elitism. The class associated with the ballet, the opera, and serious literature is only elevated with their absence in today’s mainstream culture and media.

Maybe looking forward isn’t the only answer to achieving premium positioning. Chipotle exposed an opportunity to pull from the history of American culture. And by doing so, sought to alter the emotional connections consumers make with their brand. If your target market hasn’t quite grasped the worth of your product, you may consider freeing your package from its one humble (and functional) purpose and using it as a sounding board for you brand’s larger aspirations.

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