This past weekend, I had the rare opportunity to work side-by-side one of Omaha’s brand-building gurus.
No, it wasn’t Warren Buffett, Chip Davis, or Conor Oberst.
From a local perspective, there are few brands that are better known within the Omaha-metro area than The Pancake Man For curiosity sake, last night at a large family gathering, I asked the crowd how many people have been at an event catered by The Pancake Man….100 percent of the hands in the room went up.
The Pancake Man, whose real name is Jim Kuper, has been entertaining crowds and helping nonprofit organizations raise money for 25 years. This weekend, for the annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast held in conjunction with River City Roundup in downtown Omaha, The Pancake Man’s batter preparer didn’t show up for work. According to Jim, this is the first time in a quarter century that this has ever happened.
As a Kiwanis volunteer at the event, I was asked if I would help The Pancake Man prepare his famous batter. Are you kidding me? I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to prepare a secret recipe in a huge batch, just like they do in the kitchens on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
I could tell The Pancake Man was a little nervous about leaving his product in the hands of an unknown…me. But after a few pointers, and a few successful batches, he became comfortable with me as his baking assistant.
Throughout the morning, between his stints at the huge griddle, I asked The Pancake Man about his success. He attributes his brand recognition and loyal following to delivering a consistently good product at a price that no one else can match. Where else can a nonprofit organization or corporation receive a fully catered meal for less than $3 per person? He calls his business recession-proof since sales actually go up when the economy goes down.
He says the third element in his staying power is the entertainment factor. Right from the company’s start, the former farm equipment salesman knew that he had to stand out from the competition…and so was born the idea of tossing pancakes hot off the griddle to hungry dinners standing across the room with their plates held out in anticipation of catching a fresh flapjack. It adds fun and electricity to any event.
I think all of us who are responsible for helping companies build their brands can learn important lessons from The Pancake Man. Ultimately a brand is all about the relationship your customers have with your people, products and services. Does that experience leave them feeling flat as a pancake or does it consistently leave them wanting more?