Should People in Pancake Houses Throw Burgers?

If you spend any time on the Internet not exclusively dedicated to work, shopping or seeing what new shame Cousin Frank is bringing to your family on Facebook, you understand that the Internet’s true purpose is to facilitate a relentless parade of jokes, memes and reaction videos related to anything and everything going on in the world.

So if you’re a beloved brand trying to navigate this ocean of hot takes, dry bon mots and raunchy non sequiturs do you A) be very careful so as not to become instant joke-fodder, or do you B) hit the gas and drive right into the lion’s den of Twitter comedians and smug Photoshoppers? Well IHOP was willing to take that risk and it looks like it’s paying off.

IHOP, which most of us will remember from our 20s, decided to play fast and loose with its deeply rooted brand, changing its name (temporarily) to IHOB in order to draw attention to a promotion around its new burger menu. The breakfast giant, loved deeply by both syrup-addicted toddlers and exhausted college students in need of a 3 a.m. carbo load and every hilariously specific demographic in between, made the bold choice to proclaim “We are a burger joint now!” Did this get made fun of? You know it did.

These are just a couple of the jokes. But in activating this promotion, IHOP had to have known what it was in for. If you take a look on Twitter, one very common quip by the millions of self-styled witticists is “Oh, yeah, when I think of a great burger, I think IHOP,” – the late 90s favorite “NOT!” is, of course, implied.

But, guess what funny peeps? That was the point! Did you suddenly find your mouth forming the words “IHOP” and “burger” in the same sentence? I’m guessing that a profitable percentage of people out there poking fun at the Pancake House are going to, at some point this summer, give one of those new burgers a try.

IHOP’s gambit has a lot of people talking about them – and their own competitors took the bait and are using their resources to talk about the promotion. Sure, they get their jokes in, but they’re also strapping a jetpack to IHOP’s message and blasting it into burger-loving faces by the thousands. It’s a great example of using a little creative thinking to drive your brand awareness.

Do the Tweets, Grams and quill-written letters on parchment decrying this name change hurt IHOP’s feelings (or brand)? I’m guessing no; if the stunt sells burgers, they won’t mind at all, and once the promotion ends, people still enjoy pancakes and will continue to do so, internationally.

So what’s the lesson? Maybe we shouldn’t treat our brands like sacred idols and, instead, understand that people on the Internet are going to make fun of us no matter what. IHOP understands that if they’re in on the joke, they can have the last laugh.

Erik Yorke
Erik became a healthcare PR specialist almost by accident. Upon taking his first PR job, he was added to a team managing the account of a large community hospital system. He fell in love, and while he’s served clients in different industries over the years while working for agencies like Fleishman Hillard and Sabatino Day, his passion has remained in healthcare. He has used his ability to understand healthcare trends and challenges to help clients engage physicians, legislators and other key opinion leaders while also providing strategic guidance and serving as a skilled scientific writer.

Before joining Amendola Communications, Erik served as the corporate PR and Content Strategy lead for Akron, Ohio-based the Smithers Group, where he supported the group’s portfolio of companies, which provide third-party laboratory testing (aka Contract Research) of products and materials in a range of industries including pharmaceutical, chemical, automotive and more. Prior to his time at Smithers, Erik spent the majority of his career in the marketing communications agency world where he used his talents on behalf of clients such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, bioMérieux, Image IQ (now ERT), BIOTRONIK, OsteoSymbionics and others. He holds a BA in Journalism from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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