This week we received a video from fast-food company Chipotle called “The Scarecrow,” which depicts a kind of fantastical, dystopian world that makes a heart-wrenching statement about the sorry state of industrial food production.

Digging a little deeper, it appears that in less than a week after its release, the video has attracted over 3.1 million views on YouTube, almost 20,000 Facebook likes, and more than 4,000 comments.

At a time when consumers are constantly being bombarded with poorly produced, un-remarkable and over-branded videos online, this one certainly made us sit-up and take notice. From an integrated, strategic, post-production, seeding and brand messaging point of view, it appears to be a very polished execution indeed.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look:

As a call to action to involve people in the Chipotle story on a worldwide scale, this is a truly inspired effort in a similar vein to Felix Baumgartner plummeting to earth while 8 million people watched Red Bull’s YouTube live stream – soaking up significantly less budget in the process.

It teaches us an important lesson in that (other than great post-production and story-boarding) it really doesn’t take a pile of cash to be an effective content marketer.

Chipotle and other big brands with strong content strategies may have ambitious programs and big budgets to fuel them, but even the smallest brands with more modest resources can tell the wider brand story whilst not focusing too much on specifics and also encourage their audience to feel part of it at the same time.

Chipotle might be a fast-food company, but its story isn’t about how you can find a Mexican lunch easily. Instead, it’s about what the brand, its products and services stand for – good food that’s locally and responsibly sourced. ‘Cultivate a better world’ is the brand’s key message being incorporated into the animation.

But ‘better world’ isn’t a corporate-led message, rather a relentlessly customer-focused one; a call to action to create a better world for our children, for the planet’s animals, and for us all. The video also links the content to the restaurant chain’s Cultivate Foundation, which has contributed more than $2 million so far to help fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture and family farming.

Yes Chipotle’s animation might be part of a wider content marketing strategy for the brand, but it feels a lot more important than marketing alone.

Start-up’s and smaller brands can learn from this and recognise that content marketing shouldn’t be approached as a task, tactic or channel. Nor as a blog to link to a website for SEO purposes, a Twitter feed to broadcast PR coverage or a Facebook page to collect ‘likes’, but as a strategic opportunity to engage audiences in innovative ways that bring fresh and exciting results by helping them to see the bigger picture.