In fall 2022, IHOP was focused on growing awareness for the launch of their delicious loyalty program, The International Bank of Pancakes. We knew the loyalty program would be a success, but the brand needed help increasing general awareness and driving new customers to their mobile app to sign up and start earning rewards.
IHOP holds a special place for Mari and her inner circle. It’s always been a passion of hers to embody the characters from games she loves to play. And her crew has a longstanding tradition of making a stop at IHOP after gaming conventions. Mari’s passion for both IHOP and Xbox made her the perfect partner to create a long form piece of content that would grow awareness and drive sign-ups for the program.
With more than 11 years in the gaming industry, Mari is also an actor, former ballerina and has a devoted YouTube following - a quadruple threat for creating entertaining, ‘hooks-you-in’ branded content with high impact.
The opportunity to collaborate with iconic brands IHOP and Xbox quickly resonated as the perfect mashup of her two lives: movement and video games.
The objective for Mari’s content was to increase awareness for the International Bank of Pancakes by encouraging viewers to sign up and start earning Xbox game rewards, show off Xbox-inspired menu combos available at IHOP, and put IHOP in front of a new younger audience.
What do you get when you bring together pancakes, video games and a crew of hungry cosplay characters? A Boss Battle.. with an unexpected ending.
Mari and her production team took the #IHOPXbox partnership to the next level with this long form film. They were given full creative freedom, which allowed them to infuse their unique style and sense of humor that would land with viewers and make for a memorable message.
With this video, Mari and the cast portrayed one of those convention sit downs at IHOP – a relatable moment for any gaming convention-goer. Except this time things escalated quickly. It’s easy to get a little carried away when you think someone’s talking smack about your favorite game.
In head-to-toe cosplay, with clever game references and Anchorman-style choreography, the cast brilliantly introduced viewers to the IHOP and Xbox promotion and brought to life a battle that will go down in IHOP history. Only a fresh stack of Xbox Party Animals pancakes could save the day.
A lot of intentional planning went into the setup, costuming and delivery of staged moments as they set out to take over the Las Vegas IHOP and cause a scene. It was important that the battle come to life in a way that felt true to Mari as a creator and brand relevant for IHOP and Xbox. IHOP is one of the top restaurants in the Family Dining category and we needed to ensure content would be family-friendly and inclusive to the brand’s family-diner base.
This long form piece of content was the perfect balance between Mari, Xbox, and IHOP- creatively merging worlds in true partnership. Within a few hours of posting fans were eating up the content and within a few weeks we saw an increased spike of fans visiting their local IHOPs and signing up for the rewards program.
The video immediately began racking up views and earned 17X more than her average viewership for other content. Sentiment was extremely high, drawing in comments and DMs from several fans making claims like – "this is such a good commercial" and "now that's how you make an ad."
Mari’s long form content drove massive consumer engagement, increased awareness and sign-ups for the program. With help from Mari’s content, the overall program exceeded all sales targets and benchmarks: reaching more than 1 Billion PR impressions, increasing IHOP loyalty sign-ups by 30% and Xbox reward redemptions by 5%.
A huge feat considering the budget for this program was minimal and it was IHOP’s first foray into the gaming world. Given the high production quality, many were surprised to learn it was branded content and thrilled to see Mari in the producer seat.
IHOP and Xbox focused on delivering an offer with a high level of value and relevance for consumers, and Mari’s team boosted these efforts by creating equity and excitement among the largest (and fastest) growing entertainment audience in the world - gamers!
IHOP is now on the map as ‘one to watch’ within the gaming community, building authenticity with gamers, and bringing the IHOP loyalty program front and center with a highly-invested Xbox audience of more than 158M console owners.