“I” what? How IHOP took the Internet by storm


As P. T. Barnum, the 19th-century American showman and circus owner once said, “any publicity is good publicity.” Here’s hoping that adage works in favor of IHOb (formerly known as IHOP).

The famed pancake house recently announced its plans to (temporarily, perhaps) change its name from IHOP® ® to IHOb. While the rebranding is undoubtedly a novelty, I think the real value here is how they went about promoting it. While, at first, I thought this was a really dumb thing for them to do given the brand equity in the IHOP name, I did glean a few lessons you can learn from this thought-provoking marketing strategy:

Timing is everything.

On June 4th, the chain announced it was changing its name, but they didn’t reveal what the “B” stood for in the new name. This opened the floodgates up to speculation from fans and competitors alike. Could it be bacon? Breakfast? Brunch? Something else? They took a phased approach and let the anticipation build up for a week and then made the big reveal on June 11th. (For those playing along at home, the B stood for “burgers.”) No doubt this led to more visibility, interaction and competitive responses (Burger King became Pancake King momentarily, and Whataburger promised its fans they would never change their name to “Whatapancake.”

Embrace a multi-channel approach.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to garner attention across multiple platforms simultaneously That’s precisely what IHOb did—they utilized social media, along with radio and TV to reach people and capitalize on the momentum they had built.

Know when to continue.

What makes IHOb’s move successful was that they captured momentum and rode that wave for as long as it made sense. They continued with the advertising program to stay top of mind.

Take criticism in stride.

As I mentioned above, brands like Wendy’s and Burger King took to social media to make fun of the PR stunt. In a way, IHOb got exactly what it wanted, which was invariably more attention. The same applies to your brand. If you plan to make a bold move or pivot, be prepared for negative feedback from naysayers. Inc. captured this point when they opined, let the naysayers be your fuel. This is a good life lesson for so many things in our life. Apple reminds us to be different and dare to dream bigger (should you stick to your core or move the needle and take some risks?)

So, what do you think about IHOb? Ingenious or stupid given the brand equity IHOP had built up as International House of Pancakes?


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