IHOP opens International Bank of Pancakes with sunny influence

Diving Brief:

  • IHOP is promoting the rollout of its first loyalty program with a campaign featuring influencers known for bringing a sense of joy to their professions, according to a press release.
  • Actor and comedian Niecy Nash, former NFL running back and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, and gymnast and poet Katelyn Ohashi are helping the restaurant brand raise awareness for the International Pancake Bank. The program distributes PanCoins, a cryptocurrency-inspired form of rewards that can be accumulated in the IHOP mobile app or on IHOP.com.
  • Nash, Smith and Ohashi will be giving away PanCoins to a handful of fans in the coming weeks, along with donations of up to $50,000 to a charity of their choice. IHOP will also roll out a batch of smaller content creators as support. Conceptually, the restaurant chain is aligning its efforts to foster greater loyalty with an increasingly influential part of the financial world that is driving plans for Web3 and the Metaverse.

Overview of the dive:

IHOP is taking an influencer-led approach to touting its first loyalty program. Prioritizing social media and creators suggests the chain is trying to reach a younger audience of consumers who have moved away from casual dining experiences. Cryptocurrencies, the obvious benchmark for PanCoins, have also seen steadier traction with groups like Millennials and Gen Z being more receptive to digital banking and personal finance.

Notably, PanCoins are not actually a blockchain-based cryptocurrency. Instead, they represent a “digitized” pancake, where one coin carries the value of a single real-world flapjack. Spending $5 at IHOP earns one PanCoin, and three coins can be redeemed for a small stack of pancakes. Acquiring more coins unlocks other rewards in the “Stack Market”, while customers who sign up for the loyalty program can access other benefits like free pancakes on their birthday, offers secret menus and the ability to pay from the IHOP mobile app. IHOP opened early registration for the program in March, but it officially went live today (April 11).

IHOP joins a number of restaurant chains that are emphasizing mobile channels and loyalty at a transition point for the industry. The pandemic has accelerated consumer adoption of mobile and digital ordering, causing brands in the category to re-evaluate their marketing, operations and even store design.

Tonally, the ads for IHOP and the selection of ambassadors for the International Pancake Bank lean towards a sense of optimism and joy — a sign that the brand wants to capitalize on some of the enthusiasm that has been bubbling as the COVID-19 restrictions are loosening across the country. The company is refreshing its creative strategy substantially.

Earlier this month, IHOP named Pereira O’Dell as its official creative agency after it placed her account under review late last year. Droga5 previously managed the company.

The first commercials from the Pereira O’Dell partnership launch today, featuring 30- and 15-second spots on linear and over-the-top television. The “Let’s put a smile on your plate” campaign places greater emphasis on the red smile in IHOP’s logo, which will act as a recurring brand element across channels such as in-store, out-of-home and experiential placements.

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