In the great tradition of made-up holidays in the United States, yesterday we had another great one: National Pancake Day. The holiday is certainly made up and more than likely has no historical significance whatsoever. But I do find it interesting for the simple fact that the IHOP brand uses this day to give away a free short stack of pancakes.
The thing that bothers me is that, besides the fact that this is a promotion to get people in the door and sell them other stuff like eggs, bacon and coffee, it is also an effort by IHOP to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Miracle Network.
Three pancakes at IHOP are 470 calories, with 15 grams of fat, 1590 mg of sodium, which by the way, pales in comparison to most of the rest of the menu. So it seems to me that there is a disconnect between saving kids lives and stuffing your face with pancakes.
For the hordes of people who took IHOP up on its offer, the desire to help the Children’s Miracle Network was not the driving factor. It was the free food. Free food that is not good for you.
What brands often forget is the context of the message. I can’t really blame Children’s Miracle Network as it is the recipients of much needed money to do some really great work and more than likely were not the ones who sought out this arrangement. But this is a clear example of the importance of messaging context.
Brands need to be keenly aware, especially in today’s age of social media and digital advertising, that their messages are appearing in a context. Marketers need to ask themselves are reach and frequency the real numbers they should be using to measure media spending? Oh sure 150,000 people may see your ad on the side of a city bus everyday, but are people who actually pay attention to city buses the people you want to influence?
Look around you. You might be surprised at how often advertising messages are out of context. Advertising is becoming less and less efficient everyday and context has a lot to do with it. As for the Children’s Miracle Network, I am glad to see its message even out of context. The children deserve it.