June 23, 2018

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

IHOP is IHOb now, get used to it (or maybe don’t)

IHOP is IHOb now, get used to it (or maybe don’t)

Could you identify a brand by their logo? Maybe, if they’re well-known enough.

How about their slogan? I’m sure you know what company tells you to Just Do It or which restaurant is Lovin’ It, but could you just as easily identify Take Charge or We Understand?

By far, the most identifiable thing about a brand is its name. Brands work hard to be noticeable and memorable to their target audience. Branding changes, but, typically, names stay the same.

IHOP, famous for the pancakes that comprise the P in their name, recently announced that they would be changing their name to IHOb.

What does the B stand for? Breakfast? Bacon, maybe? Brunch, perhaps? Wrong. They’re now the International House of…Burgers.

Their recent announcement on social media about their name change has sparked lots of reactions and speculations.

Is this a poor branding decision or a deliberate campaign to generate attention and engagement? Regardless, this change has important takeaways for communicators.

Background

On June 4, IHOP tweeted from its official account, teasing that a name change was coming. They announced that they’d be swapping out the P for a B in their name and promised to announce what the new acronym stood for on June 11.

In the week leading up to the full announcement, they shared Twitter polls, asking users to vote on what the B could stand for, offering biscuits, bacon, butternut squash, and barnacles as options.

They also tweeted messages that switched P’s to B’s, considering the “bossiblities” and basking in the “anticibation.”

Their ultimate announcement on June 11 about what the B stands for was met with a lot of questions and jokes.

Several corporate Twitter accounts chimed in to make fun of IHOP, including MoonPie, Wendy’s, and Denny’s.

Burger King took their mocking a step further and changed their logo, bio, and name on Twitter to Pancake King.

For a good portion of the day, IHOP trended on Twitter, as users tried to figure out what motivated this change and tweeted out memes mocking the decision.

As the first day following their announcement winded down, people wondered whether this change would be permanent or whether it was part of a campaign to get people talking about the restaurant chain. 

What’s next? 

So is this just a temporary change as part of a marketing campaign? Based on their replies, it would seem so. But it’s a stunt to which they’re really committing.

The company replaced signage at its flagship restaurant in Los Angeles to reflect their new name, changed their Twitter handle, launched promotional videos, and added the announcement to the front page of their website.

Prior to the change, a typical tweet from IHOP’s Twitter generated anywhere from 50-200 retweets and 200-600 favorites. The tweet teasing the name change has, as of writing this, 13,000 retweets and 32,000 favorites, and the actual announcement has 15,000 retweets and 40,000 favorites. They’ve garnered earned media coverage in major US publications, including Forbes, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. Hundreds of thousands of tweets mentioning the restaurant chain elevated the story to Twitter’s trending topics on the day of the announcement.

Evidently, this rebranding has generated some interest.

If you weren’t talking about IHOP before the announcement, you’re probably talking about it now. And isn’t that the point of effective marketing and communications? Their creative communications team managed to raise the awareness for their brand and multiply their engagement.

Although this all looks great, effective communication must be tied to business goals and the bottom line. This campaign has managed to break through the noise on social media, boost engagement, and generate earned media, but it means nothing if it doesn’t motivate people to go into the restaurant for a meal.

It will remain to be seen whether or not this campaign manages to generate higher sales, especially higher sales for non-breakfast items on their menu, but for now, this campaign shows communicators how a bold idea, some humor, and commitment can generate interest and propel your brand into more mainstream conversation.

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About The Author

jordan.gosselin@carma.com'

Jordan Gosselin recently began her career in marketing and communication with CARMA. Her experience includes social and digital work, creative content production, and marketing operations.

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