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    IHOP opens International Bank of Pancakes with sunny influencer push

    • 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, per a news 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 spread the word about the International Bank of Pancakes. The program doles out PanCoins, a form of rewards inspired by cryptocurrency that can be accrued in the IHOP mobile app or at IHOP.com.
    • Nash, Smith and Ohashi will give away PanCoins to a handful of fans in the coming weeks, along with donating up to $50,000 to a charity of their choice. IHOP will also deploy a batch of smaller content creators as support. Conceptually, the diner chain is aligning its efforts to foster stronger loyalty with an increasingly influential part of the financial world that’s foundational to plans for Web3 and the metaverse.

    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 crowd of consumers that have drifted away from casual dine-in experiences. Cryptocurrencies, the obvious point of reference for PanCoins, have also seen steadier traction with groups like millennials and Gen Zers that are more receptive to digital banking and personal finance.

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

    IHOP joins a number of restaurant chains that are putting fresh focus on mobile channels and loyalty at a transitional point for the industry. The pandemic has accelerated consumer adoption of mobile and digital ordering, pushing brands in the category to reassess their marketing, operations and even store designs.

    Tonally, IHOP’s ads and pick of ambassadors for the International Bank of Pancakes skew toward a sense of optimism and joy — a sign that the brand wants to capitalize on some of the enthusiasm that’s bubbled up as COVID-19 restrictions loosen around the country. The company is refreshing its creative strategy in substantial ways.

    IHOP earlier this month named Pereira O’Dell as its creative agency of record after putting its account in review late last year. Droga5 previously handled the business.

    The first ads out of the Pereira O’Dell partnership launch today, with 30- and 15-second spots on linear and over-the-top television. The “Let’s Put a Smile on Your Plate” campaign puts a stronger emphasis on the red smile of IHOP’s logo, which will act as a recurring branding element across channels like in-store, out-of-home and experiential placements.

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