IHOP, sigh-HOP—serving up backlash with a side of bacon.
The pancake house caused quite a rouse last week upon tweeting a joke that perhaps took its aspiringly hip image a bit far.
Online outrage quickly ensued calling the tweet offensive, crude, sexist and in generally poor taste to equate pancakes with women’s bodies, additionally slamming them in the process. Considering October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the criticism should have been expected.
That said, IHOP immediately realized the ruckus and took corrective action. Deleting the tweet and issuing a follow-up apology, it predictably assured the incident doesn’t represent the brand.
While the restaurant chain has found great success with its slang-slinging Twitter account launched last year, the style of syntax can obviously cross a line. Combatting its old-fashioned reputation, the Internet sayings, puns and plays on popular song lyrics comprise some tweets more reminiscent of a “teenage hip-hop fan” than others; however, it illustrates vital do’s and don’ts of an always interesting PR strategy:
A highly encouraged practice among industry leaders, brand humanization is a way to differentiate yourself by bringing pointed personality to the table. More than crafted characters alone, the concept includes honing a unique, clever and endearing voice through the brand itself.
Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome and the Oreo Cookie are shining star examples when it comes to specific characters; Whataburger, T-Mobile and Taco Bell exemplify effective, more whole-brand approaches.
But the trick boils down to finding balance.
While injecting youthful, pop culture influence is the goal, it should be done without broaching the obnoxious and overly immature edge. Brand personalization provides a chance to fuse personality with genuine information, so take advantage of it. When done correctly, the strategy can provide major building blocks for a promotional powerhouse.
A brand’s communication tactics are often the “make it or break it” key. It’s one thing to gain specialty traction among certain audiences while leaving others respectful yet neutral of the approach; however, it’s another to outright turn off non-resonating audiences due to annoyance and/or loss of credibility.
Despite concern raised and questionable tastes ablaze, IHOP is on the theoretically right track.
Hopefully alienation is not on the menu and it maintains “on fleek” status in the eyes of all pertinent publics.