retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is going back to the advertising well.

It was just about a year ago that IHOP announced that it was temporarily changing its name to “IHOB,” stringing out the mystery about what the “B” stood for as long as it could before unveiling a new selection of hamburgers.

It was, according to Fast Company, a successful effort: “The IHOB campaign got the brand more than 42 billion media impressions worldwide, and immediately quadrupled the company’s burger sales.” And it was sustained - burger sales are “still humming along at double their pre-IHOB numbers.”

I remember the campaign well. When it was first announced, I was dubious about how effective it would be. (I guess I got that wrong.) My previous experiences with IHOP left me with indigestion, and I didn’t see the point of putting myself through that again. But when I said that here, MNB readers challenged me on it, suggesting that I had no business criticizing the burgers if I had not tried one. I saw their point, I tried one, was unimpressed, and two hours later experienced, shall we say, intestinal distress that seemed vaguely familiar from my last IHOP visit. (Colonoscopy prep would’ve been preferable…)

Now, IHOP is using a variation on that year-old campaign to talk about its burgers yet again … this time, calling them pancakes because that’s the business it supposedly is in. You cans see the new commercial above … which I think is Eye-Opening in all the wrong ways.

First, I’m not going back to IHOP to try any more of its food. Sorry, but I don’t need to put myself through that again. I’ve got a lot of intestinal fortitude, but there are limits.

Second, I’m skeptical about any claims that IHOP is in the food business. I’m not sure what they’re serving, but it ain’t food. (I’ve eaten pancakes at places like Dupar’s in Los Angeles, Sears Fine Food in San Francisco, Cafe Luna in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Coffee An’ in Westport, Connecticut. I can’t be fooled by IHOP’s lame efforts. And, by the way, I’ll bet pancake lovers everywhere have favorite spots … and most of them aren’t called IHOP.)

Third, I may be proved wrong yet again, but I’m going out on a limb and say that this one of the dumbest commercials I’ve seen in recent days.

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