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How a Pancake House Flipped to Burgers

Sarah Steimer

Twitter got in a few good jabs, but IHOP got the last laugh when its fake rebrand quadrupled its burger sales.

Goal

People joke that nobody goes to Hooters for the wings. It’s a tongue-in-cheek quip about the staff’s dress code, but wings are, in fact, the breastaurant’s featured menu item. The same can’t be said about hamburgers at IHOP. Nobody goes to the International House of Pancakes for the burgers—right?

Burgers have actually been on the IHOP menu since the restaurant opened 60 years ago. IHOP ran previous campaigns to hype their burgers, but the brand couldn’t build the momentum they wanted for their so-called p.m. menu items. Plus this latest iteration of burgers—called Ultimate Steakburgers—were a little more special: These were 100% USDA choice, Black Angus ground beef patties that are smashed on the grill to sear before being tucked into a brioche bun. They deserved an extra-special campaign.

Action

IHOP’s new line of burgers may be fancier, but they were entering an already crowded market. “It had to be something that was bold,” says IHOP CMO Brad Haley. “It had to be something that was disruptive because A, we wanted people to know that we have this new line of amazing burgers and and B, it had to shake people up to get them to think a little bit differently about us, this House of Pancakes that actually now sells a really good burger.”

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Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at ssteimer@ama.org or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.