PR > PR: Sectors


DEVRIES GLOBAL, New York / IHOP / 2019


Silver Cannes Lions
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Why is this work relevant for PR?

The IHOb campaign exemplifies the viral power of PR, when seamlessly orchestrated to reinvigorate consumers’ love for a brand. The unified role of planning and communications reframed IHOP’s strength in culinary innovation and evolved the brand from an all-day breakfast icon to a quality lunch and dinner destination.

We rose to the occasion by flipping the script from the International House of Pancakes to the International House of Burgers, putting the brand, its food, and its beloved place in society at the forefront of guests’ minds and on the lips of culture.


With America’s family-dining category declining, IHOP sought to transcend its best-for-breakfast fame to drive traffic during additional mealtimes.

The restaurant revered for its all-American, fluffy pancakes tackled the mission head-on by perfecting another American classic: the burger.

The task of launching burgers by a brand known for pancakes presented a unique duo of challenges. First, it was critical that we shifted America’s perception of IHOP as solely a breakfast destination. Secondly, IHOP, as the challenger brand, must stand out among the established giants. In a nation saturated with burger chains, being heard would be a feat, particularly as IHOP’s advertising budget was less than two percent of the combined budgets of the category leaders, including McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

IHOP needed something as big and bold as its burgers to hijack attention, spark chatter and firmly plant itself as a serious contender in the burger conversation.

Describe the creative idea

For 60 years, IHOP was known and loved for its eponymous guest-favorite: pancakes. So how could the restaurant be taken seriously about its new burgers?

We flipped one letter, and the Internet flipped out. With the slightest change to an iconic acronym, IHOb was born, reawakening an entire country’s latent love for a nostalgic brand.

In an always-on world that expects an instantly gratifying answer to every question, we knew this audacious move would trigger fascination with America asking, “Are they serious?!” Changing the brand name created the emotional response we anticipated. From the initial tease to the big reveal and beyond, everyone had a reaction, a guess and an opinion, both online and offline.

We harnessed America’s disbelief to ignite curiosity, spark conversation and fuel controversy, unleashing unprecedented earned coverage, engagement, and ultimately driving consideration and trial of IHOP’s new burgers.

Describe the PR strategy

Research found brand love for IHOP far surpassed its competitors; however, the brand fell short on driving intent. Additionally, IHOP maintained a stronghold association with only one consideration occasion: breakfast.

We designed a strategy to steal share from competition and increase guest frequency by reframing IHOP as an option for multiple mealtimes. We pivoted IHOP to embrace breakfast and beyond, and crafted the platform, RISE TO THE OCCASION.

The message was clear: IHOP takes its Steakburgers as seriously as its pancakes. The communications framework liberated IHOP from a single-lane breakfast message to cater to distinct dayparts and a wider audience of diners.

Following a social launch, we leveraged public conversation and earned media to reach guests at new touchpoints within their consideration journey. The volume of IHOb messaging at every unexpected turn cemented IHOP’s relevance as top of mind in culture, and top of guests’ minds when making dining decisions.

Describe the PR execution

We unveiled IHOb in a phased rollout of “tease, taste and tempt” that continuously rallied owned, earned and paid media channels.

For one week, a nation of guests, influencers, celebrity fans and media guessed, “What’s the b in IHOb?!” PR drove the narrative with executive interviews and culinary previews for target media and influencers who would ultimately help reveal the embargoed news.

We answered the anticipation with a national television interview, strategically placed print stories and social media initiatives, followed by a second wave of robust media relations to fuel the story. A VIb launch event at IHOb, in-restaurant interviews, in-studio burger deliveries and behind-the-scenes culinary content brought the campaign to life.

With over 100 coordinated tastings and media drops to get burgers in the hands of earned newsmakers and influencers, PR sustained momentum well beyond the launch moment to make IHOb an unforgettable moment in conversation and ongoing consideration.

List the results

The virality of IHOb created an remarkable stamp in culture, substantiated by unprecedented awareness and coverage, including more than 28,000 media stories; $113+ million in earned-media value – an 11x ROI; and more than 42.5 billion earned impressions.

IHOb comprised more earned digital coverage in its first week than the most successful single weeks of “Fearless Girl,” “McWhopper” and “Red Bull Stratos” campaigns combined.

Every major news, entertainment and lifestyle outlet and television personality covered the campaign, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, James Corden, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert.

IHOb generated 1.2 million tweets in the first 10 days, including unpaid engagement by Chrissy Teigen, Diplo, Questlove, Cardi B and Colbert. IHOb was simultaneously the #1, #2 and #4 Trending Topic on Twitter, out-trending the concurrent 2018 North Korea-U.S. Singapore Summit and Net Neutrality rulings.

IHOP claimed category leadership in social share of voice and has maintained it ever since. The PR campaign propelled brand interest beyond IHOb, with 2x increase in word-of-mouth and 80% increase in ad awareness (increasing from 25% to 45%) tracked via YouGov’s BrandIndex.

IHOb dramatically increased guest perception of IHOP “having great burgers” from 41% to 51%, catapulting IHOP from last place to second place among competitors. On “reveal,” IHOP lunch and dinner sales increased 15% and 28%, respectively. IHOP quadrupled burger sales YOY during the first month following the campaign launch, selling 500,000 burgers per week, and sustained 2x lunch and dinner sales through the end of the year.

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