Everyone loves a great story.

For the past year, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been in desperate need of rewriting its narrative. The chain has suffered mightily following multiple incidents in which customers got sick after eating Chipotle products contaminated with E. coli bacteria or norovirus. (Not to mention that the company's chief creative and development executive, Mark Crumpacker, was recently charged with drug possession and linked to a high-profile drug ring in New York.)

In an effort to find its way back, Chipotle released a new short film last week.


Entitled A Love Story, the short is directed by former Pixar animator Saschka Unseld, and is set to a remake of the Backstreet Boys' 1999 hit song "I Want It That Way" (recorded as a duet by Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket). 

It tells the story of rival entrepreneurs Evie and Ivan, who run competing juice stands as kids. As the two businesses grow, competition causes the owners to lose sight of their original goals and values.

Eventually, the pair come to their senses and get back to their roots--preparing their products from scratch with fresh ingredients--and love.

"We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food," Mark Shambura, Chipotle's director of brand marketing, said in a statement. "That starts with using excellent ingredients, and preparing those ingredients using classic cooking techniques. A Love Story illustrates how competition propelled these two once-simple concepts to become something neither of their founders envisioned--reliant on limited-time offers, vast menus, and heavily processed food."

Why It's Brilliant

Although posted just over a week ago, A Love Story has already been viewed more than 4.3 million times. Top comments include statements like "This was adorable," "I applaud Chipotle for this," and "This almost made me cry."

Make no mistake: This was a very smart move on Chipotle's part.

If you read my column, you know I write a lot about emotional intelligence and its benefits. (It's even the theme of my upcoming book: Emotional Intelligence: The Ultimate Skill for Everyday Life.)

So many of our decisions are based on how we feel about a brand. Sure, Chipotle's got huge perception problems at the moment. To say the company has trust issues would be a gross understatement.

But the restaurant chain got to where it is today by offering a healthy and fresh alternative to what we were used to. With excellent animation, beautiful music, and--most of all--a well-written story, the new film by Chipotle reminds us of why we shouldn't give up on it ... and what makes it different from more traditional fast-food chains.

Of course, this isn't the company's first use of great filmmaking. Its first two films, Back to the Start and The Scarecrow, have been viewed collectively on YouTube more than 25 million times. Executives were well aware of this success and the role these films played in helping to carve out the company's brand image.

Will this newest film be just as effective in getting customers back in stores? Time will tell.

But if Chipotle gets its wish, this story will have a happy ending.