IHOb – Marketing Stunt or Marketing Genius?
In the past month, the media has been in a frenzy over something so simple… IHOP (International House of Pancakes) is changing their name to IHOb (International House of Burgers… Burgers?)
Before they revealed the inspiration behind their new name the company offered up a guessing game to see if people would guess what the new letter stood for. One of the most common answers was International House of Breakfast, which makes much more sense than burgers, and people were shocked to hear what the new letter stands for.
As a ridiculously brilliant marketing strategy, IHOP (or IHob…) took the media world by storm. Even other food chains are commenting on the name change, therefore bringing even more attention and press to IHOb.
Not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard.
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) June 11, 2018
As much as we love our pancakes, we’d never change our name to Whatapancake
— Whataburger® (@Whataburger) June 11, 2018
— DisCounselor Dan (@DisCounselor) June 11, 2018
— Steak ‘n Shake (@SteaknShake) June 11, 2018
All of these tweets and changes also made a huge break in the media therefore giving IHOb even more publicity.
Before anyone actually thinks this name change is happening, Forbes revealed that “shockingly, once we got the official word, it turned out to be merely a publicity stunt designed to highlight the chain’s new focus on meals other than breakfast.” As absurd as the internet is taking this name change, it is doing EXACTLY what it is supposed to be doing… generating buzz. Some people find the name chance comedic genius while one site even deemed this marketing strategy “a new wrinkle in the dystopian hellscape of viral marketing”. Ouch. But, just like all media, in about a weeks time nobody will even be talking about it anymore.
Forbes brings to attention to the essential concept of branding – a name is not the same thing as a brand. A name is what we call something. A brand is something different entirely—and far more meaningful.
“In an era when brands are spending millions or tens of millions of dollars to stand out from the crowd, what you’ve seen IHOP do is take a moment in time — a small event, the addition of a menu item — and made it a pop-culture event, that’s PR at its finest.”
– Carreen Winters, chairman of reputation and chief strategy officer at the public-relations agency MWWPR
Louise Pritchard of Pritchard Volk Consulting offers a more in-depth differentiation as she and her business partner discusses your brand story – your brand or brand story is not a marketing stunt or marketing materials, it is the essence of who your business is.
As far as marketing is concerned, IHOP’s recent name change is generating vast amounts of buzz. While the “burger” reveal left a lot of people confused, IHOP accomplished exactly what they were after: drawing attention to an increasingly popular non-breakfast item that’s always been on their menu. Lou Jordano says that “time will tell is the stunt will actually translate to sales, but there is absolutely no denying that, in theory, the campaign was incredibly successful. Consumer conversations show that IHOP popularity has skyrocketed since the announcement, turning the brand into a trending topic.” IHOP posted the announcement of the name change on Twitter, and even went further to include a quiz prompting users to guess “what could it b?” Various interpretations were presented, and IHOP even bantered with celebrities, pro sports teams and news outlets, saying things like, “the blot thickens.”
While yes, IHOP will not actually be changing their name to IHOb and it was all simply a marketing troll – it was clever, it generated a lot of buzz for the company, and judging by the influx of IHOP being mentioned in media, it worked.