“If you have pancakes in your tum tum, does that make you a pancake mum mum?” IHOP said Sunday morning on Twitter. “Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the moms out there!”
Almost immediately, IHOP’s Mother’s Day tweet, which was trending on Twitter for most of Sunday, was met with a wide array of reactions, ranging from lighthearted confusion to downright disappointment. The blowback from the uterus tweet also comes as the national conversation surrounding highly restrictive abortion laws from conservative governors and legislators has intensified in recent weeks, with Georgia recently signing a “heartbeat bill” into law and Alabama voting this week on a near-total abortion ban.
“And @IHOP weighs into the most controversial space in American politics in the last 50 years,” said writer Molly Jong-Fast.
Described as “bold” in recent years, IHOP’s marketing strategy has been known for grabbing headlines. The most notable example came last year when IHOP temporarily rebranded to “IHOb” to promote its burgers, a move that the company said caused sales to quadruple, Business Insider reported. But as Adweek’s David Griner wrote, IHOP’s Mother’s Day wishes missed the mark entirely on Sunday.
“IHOP may have pulled off an impressive stunt with its supposed rebranding as IHOb, the International House of Burgers, but is the world ready for its attempt to be an IHOB-GYN?” Griner wrote. “No. No, it is not.”
On Twitter, users took turns roasting IHOP for its unusual tweet-and-sonogram pairing to celebrate moms, which has more than 5,000 likes and nearly 3,000 replies as of early Monday. Some wondered why the restaurant didn’t just post a picture of pancakes and call it a day.
“This is pancakes in a uterus,” said Heather Anne Campbell, a writer for “The Twilight Zone.”
“Gonna be real with you IHOP, this is a really bizarre tweet,” said Parker Molloy, editor at large for the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America.
If this was the best idea, kinda curious about what the others were.— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) May 12, 2019
Some people noted the awkward timing of the IHOP tweet following the recent developments in Georgia, with one critic describing the post as “the most tone deaf thing ever.”
“In Georgia they consider it a pancake as soon as the egg is cracked,” one user wrote.
“LIFE STARTS AT CONSUMPTION,” another person wrote.
georgia lawmakers have gone too far— moose 🦌 (@tiemoose) May 12, 2019
There was also confusion as to why the chain suggested that a woman’s uterus and stomach were connected in any way.
“IHOP thinks a uterus is a stomach,” writer Laura Bassett said.
A request to IHOP for comment late Sunday was not immediately returned.
It’s not the first time a major U.S. brand has faced criticism for marketing related to a woman’s body and pregnancy. As Adweek pointed out, Doritos aired a Super Bowl ad in 2016 featuring a pregnant woman undergoing an ultrasound. The 30-second ad featured her fetus, desperate for a Dorito, launching itself out of its mother’s womb to try to grab one of her male partner’s nacho cheese-flavored chips. BuzzFeed reported at the time that the ad left some people uncomfortable, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, a group that supports abortion rights that accused the Super Bowl spot of using the “#antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses.”
IHOP wasn’t the only one to have a rough go at it on social media on Sunday. In an effort to honor moms, the San Diego Padres switched their Twitter handle to “@Madres.” USA Today reported that an astute college baseball player realized that the team edited its handle instead of the display name, and was able to claim “@Padres” for himself. (The team eventually took back its Twitter handle.)
Alicia Jessop, a sports law professor at Pepperdine University, said IHOP’s Mother’s Day tweet, and the blowback it received, should serve as a lesson for companies on what not to do the next time they want to pay respect to mothers on their big day.
“This Mother’s Day is a case study in social media strategy,” Jessop said.
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