IHOP’s Epic #SocialFail

By: Hannah Bortz

In 2014 IHOP, also known as the International House of Pancakes, grabbed the attention of  social media  when they tweeted “Pancakes on fleek.” By this simple tweet, IHOP created a hip and innovative voice for their official Twitter account . In 2015, they continued to  tweet with the same voice,  “DEEZ are NUTS”. Unfortunately, their ‘hip’ social media campaign crashed with two simple, yet extremely offensive tweets. IHOP tweeted pictures of pancakes with captions they believed to think were funny, and would appeal to a younger audience. However, it did just the opposite, and they soon came to regret it. One of them read “The butter face we all know and love,” and the second, “flat but has a GREAT personality.”

Image from INC.com

Image from INC.com

Almost immediately Twitter followers across the country began bashing the International House of Pancakes for their sexist jokes. INC.com described the situation, “sexist jokes kids used to make in gym class do not translate into good social media strategy.”

Adweek states that “Brands are generally getting less error prone on Twitter, as evidenced by the longer period of time between epic fails. But IHOP on Sunday obliged with a doozy—a tweet about pancakes that doubled as an insult to flat-chested women.” The tweet ended up staying on IHOP’s official account for a couple hours until they finally decided to take down the tweet and apologize to those who were offended. IHOP tweeted later that day saying, “Earlier today we tweeted something dumb and immature that does not reflect what IHOP stands for. We’re sorry.”

Image from Huffington Post

Image from Huffington Post

IHOP was clearly trying to be humorous with their social media strategy, however, in our current day and age, people have no fear speaking their mind and letting companies know when they have done wrong, whether it be in a manner calm and collective manner or aggressive and nasty.

When researching this incident as a social win or fail, it is clear across the board that this is a #SocialFail. The topic of pancakes and breasts upset people not just across the country, but across the world. Entrepreneur.com listed IHOP in “The 5 Worst Marketing Fails of 2015.” New York Daily News also listed the IHOP Twitter campaign as one of the biggest brand fails in 2015 and creatively stated “Well, this joke feel flat.”

Huffington Post posed the question, “Did the pancake house take its new image a little too far?” I believe the answer to that question clearly lies in the following screenshots I took from the Huffington Post article about IHOP’s Tweets:

Image from Huffington Post

Image from Huffington Post

Image from Huffington Post

Image from Huffington Post

I firmly believe IHOP’s campaign was a #SocialFail. People were outraged and extremely offended. I do however think they had every intention of relating to the younger generation at the start of their campaign. Unfortunately, they took it a step too far when they began to negatively speak of women. I think IHOP should keep the new hip voice they have taken on, but they really need to take caution with the extremities they may pursue . I think tweeting funny and relevant sayings are an amazing way to reach a younger demographic, however, you have to be extremely careful and aware to not offend the older customers. There is a fine line the marketing teams have to walk.

Sources:

Mosbergen, D. (2015, October 20). IHOP Tweeted A Joke About Breasts. It Didn’t Go Too Well. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ihop-tweet-breast-joke_us_56249e61e4b08589ef47eacb

Nudd, T. (2015, October 19). IHOP Tries to Make a Joke About Women’s Breasts, Fails Miserably Tweet is swiftly deleted. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/ihop-tries-make-joke-about-womens-breasts-fails-miserably-167659

Shandrow, K. (2015, December 3). The 5 Worst Marketing Fails of 2015. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/253195

Wagner, M. (2015, December 14). The biggest brand fails of 2015: Rape jokes, accidental porn tweets, Starbucks’ mocked ‘Race Together’ campaign and more. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/biggest-brand-fails-2015-article-1.2462495

YAKOWICZ, W. (2015, December 17). The 7 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2015. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.inc.com/will-yakowicz/the-top-social-media-fails-2015.html