Brad Haley

How IHOP CMO Builds Brand Momentum With Best-in-Class Agencies

Brad Haley, CMO of IHOP (sometimes now referred to as IHOb) is no stranger to big, bold, daring campaigns. A “cereal” restaurant marketer, as reinforced by the brand's recent product extension of cereal pancakes, Brad points to his key success factors: taking risks, his team, and having best-in-class agency partners.

“Over my career, I guess I've always felt that besides having the very best internal team you can have, having the hottest, most creative agency is also critical to the success of the brand," Brad noted. "That’s served me well over the years and Droga 5 continues that success in the partnership that we’re in now.”

Indeed, Droga5 is kicking butt. Named Adweek Agency of the Decade, no one knows them better at Adweek than David Griner, Creative and Innovation Editor and Co-host of “Yeah That’s Probably an Ad” podcast.

According to Griner, “Droga5 might be best known for its dramatic, hilarious or even confounding creative (think IHOb, a laughably bizarre name change that quadrupled burger sales at IHOP), but it’s the agency’s eye for strategic campaign underpinnings that clients most often praise.”

Indeed, the IHOb campaign was remarkable. In this episode, Brad goes deep into the campaign conception, the results, and how IHOP has been on a continual upward march in building brand momentum—which is different from net promoter score (NPS) as Brad explains in this episode. We also dive deep into Brad’s earlier roles at CKE and Jack in the Box, where he first developed his formula for success that he's been refining ever since. 

“I think a lot of senior marketing executives have a hard time letting their ego get out of the way," Brad shared candidly. "They feel like they've been doing this a long time and they should tell the agencies what to do rather than listen to what they have to say. It's certainly more rewarding for the agencies and the relationship if they're given a latitude to be involved in a lot of the decision making. ... So, they really are an extension of the marketing team and we value their opinion."

"’s more important than ever to be disruptive and to think about how you can impact culture."

Brad goes on to share his thoughts around full-funnel marketing and the importance of not losing sight of the upper funnel. “The world of marketing and, maybe more pointedly, the world of media today, is changing so fast. [Filling] the upper funnel is an increasingly challenging thing to try to pull off in today's media world. So, it’s more important than ever to be disruptive and to think about how you can impact culture… Now's not the time to play it safe.”

And going back to the very beginning of what Brad said was key to success, “having the very best internal team you can have”, Brad shares with us what his internal organization looks like, his broad cross-functional responsibilities and his dedication to fostering the diverse and inclusive teams. As part of IHOP core values, Brad describes all the actions they take and what they measure to ensure to ensure they are living up to the brand's values.

So what does success look like for Brad and for IHOP? 

“[We have] a diverse team, that's an inclusive team, and beyond that, as the brand has done more visible things in culture, our sales resultsan eighth consecutive quarter of positive comp store sales in a tough, restaurant industry in general and a challenging segment within it. That success kind of breeds success and I think it leads more people to want to join the team.”