The recent announcement by Elevation Burger to move into hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken is just one more indication of how “organic” is changing the face of marketing today.

As a fast-casual chain with just 33 domestic locations and already the biggest fast-food seller of organic beef, Elevation Burger is forcing McDonald’s and other fast-food chains to change the way they operate. In fact, McDonald’s in early March announced that it will stop using chicken treated with antibiotics, responding to growing pressure from consumers who want healthier food options and have voted with their wallets by making brands like Chipotle and Whole Foods among the most successful in America.
Going organic isn’t easy. But losing customers is.

While other chains like Chick-fil-A have promised to drop antibiotics from their chicken within five years, and giant producers like Tyson and Perdue have ramped-up production of antibiotic-free chicken to meet growing demand, Elevation Burger is moving quickly to capture a greater share of wallet in this growing shift to organic by not only selling chicken free of antibiotics, but also without pesticides or hormones.
Considering that a recent Gallup Poll says that 45% of American’s say they actively try to include organic foods in their diets, it’s clear to see that the “organic movement” is here to stay and in fact, is starting to impact non-food categories seeking to make their brands more authentic.

The new “organic movement” is appearing throughout non-food marketing circles.
Every marketer should look at the “organic movement” in fast food restaurants and grocery shelves as a wake-up call to their own marketing. Marketers who view “organic” as something authentic, eliminating artificiality or hype from their advertising, and being truthful and honest with their customers, have the best chances for success.
For example, the lodging industry is making their modern hotels homier, roomier and more vacation-rentalized as a reaction to the among people choosing vacation rentals over hotels. Dry cleaning chains like OXXO have eliminated harsh chemicals. North Face’s latest marketing campaign is inviting customers to the mountains for a workout without ever leaving the store. Neutrogena claims that washing with soap and water wastes five gallons of water a day and urges people to switch out their usual skin care routines and use Neutrogena’s Naturals waterless wipes. And Aerie, American Eagle Outfitters’ retail brand devoted to intimates and swimwear, has pledged not to retouch images of its models and is encouraging young women to upload unretouched videos and images with their comments.

Matthew McConaughey’s campaign for Lincoln takes an organic approach.
In an industry known for pumping and plumping its brands with growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, the new Lincoln-Mercury campaign with Matthew McConaughey is a good example of this new “organic movement.” The Lincoln brand has not only reaped the kind of cultural awareness that marketers die for—blazing across the Internet and earning spoofs from Jim Carrey and Ellen DeGeneres— it has helped Lincoln boost sales by 16% in 2014 and has driven measurable traffic to dealers, tripled its website traffic, and helped the brand hit about 10% market share in the fourth quarter of 2014, which is about double its brand average.

Conventional thinking versus organic thinking.

From the outset, Lincoln knew that if they treated their new campaign for the MKC model like a conventional car commercial, they would be lost in a sea of sameness.
Oddly enough, when Lincoln’s marketing team first started talking about how to market the new MKC model, a celebrity spokesperson wasn’t even part of the discussion. They weren’t looking for a celebrity face but a true collaborator. They didn’t want McConaughey to be some famous name catapulting in to create some immediate short-term buzz. They wanted their campaign to be more authentic, more organic if you will. They knew that if they treated this like a conventional spokesperson role, it would scream of borrowed interest and wouldn’t be very authentic to Matthew either.
It was a tough but conscious decision to remove the hormones, the antibiotics and the pesticides that are part of a loud, stereotypical car ad.

According to Lincoln, they agreed early on that they wanted to stand out and draw attention to the brand by doing things differently, and that meant having a quieter, more authentic approach with Matthew that could draw interest to the brand and recast it. And if you’ve seen the TV spot, you’ll agree that the tone, the direction, the copy, and the overall look and feel of the commercial is calming, natural, very “organic.”
Like Chipotle’s decision to go organic with beef and chicken before other fast-casual restaurants, Lincoln’s decision to go “organic” with McConaughey was a calculated risk with the power to significantly amplify their marketing and advertising effectiveness.
According to Lincoln, “at another point in the brand revitalization we might not have been willing to take that risk, but what we realized is as a challenger brand, we have to be open to doing that, because the upside is greater than any potential downside.”

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter who has worked with more than 200 clients in b2c and b2b industries across digital and traditional channels.