Back in June, I wrote in this blog about IHOP’s universally maligned and quite misguided “attempt” at rebranding itself to IHOB (“International House of Burgers”). Apparently that turned out to be IHOP trolling us all, but I do wonder if the “Gotcha!” was always in the plans or if it was a result of public backlash. Chicken and the egg, and all that. Regardless, IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, is still IHOP.
Of course, because it’s still IHOP, they tried again, this time with somewhat better results. Did you know that February 9, 2019, was National Pizza Day? I didn’t. (Yes, I’m ashamed of myself.) But IHOP did. So they, for two days only, created the Pancizza, a pizza-sized pancake delivered to you hot and fresh in a pizza box for $4.99. (It’s pronounced, “pan-KEET-za,” for the record, as the box helpfully tells us.) If you are lucky enough to live in NYC, LA, Chicago or Dallas, you had access to one of these tasty treasures for a limited time only. You were also limited to Bacon & Cheddar, Cupcake (?) and Original Pancake. I believe there were also dipping sauces, especially wonderful for those out there who like to mix bacon, cheddar cheese and butter pecan syrup.
This time? It… kinda worked. While I’m completely with Thrillist’s Dustin Nelson when he calls the Pancizza “weird,” I have a much more favorable opinion of this stunt than IHOP’s last attempt at getting buzz for its brand.
Why is this one better?
First, IHOP stayed in their lane. I’m not a huge fan of people being told to stay in their lanes, but brands? Please do. The Pancizza might be a little silly, but at its heart, it is a pancake. Which is appropriate from the International House of Pancakes.
Second, the stunt was short-lived. It was just that—a stunt, transparently designed to generate some buzz, even of the, “Um… excuse me?” variety.
Third, the brand embraced the quirkiness. IHOP was not trying to be super fancy and present itself as something it’s not (*cough*Palessi*cough*). The Pancizza reinforces that IHOP knows what it is. IHOP is a place for pancakes, a humble and simple breakfast food for people from all walks of life who just need some delicious carbs. So even on National Pizza Day, IHOP embraced its essence and celebrated with its own, pancake-based twist.
I kind of look forward to what they’ll do next. Last Friday was National Margarita Day. While I hope there will not be tequila-infused pancakes anywhere anytime soon, a Key Lime pancake might not be so bad.
The lesson here is one that lies at the root of all good branding: don’t try to be something you’re not. Unless you’re willing to completely flip your brand (like a pancake!), remember who you are and make sure any stunt you run is a good fit. Embrace the brand you’ve worked so hard to establish and align accordingly.