The online buzz this week is IHOP’s (hopefully temporary) name change to IHOb. The company teased the change last week and on Monday finally revealed what the “b” stands for: Burgers. If you’re scratching your head in confusion, join the many others on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram doing the same.
Jono Mammel (@MammelJono) commented on Twitter, “IHOP: Millennials were about to kill us, so we finished the job ourselves.” Jeff Kirkpatrick (@JKdarkknight) wrote, “This is just stupid. I have NEVER eaten a burger here. I go to IhoP for the Pancakes!!”
The restaurant’s competitors even got in on the action. Wendy’s—quite well known on Twitter for quick and witty quips on Twitter—did not hold back when it came to mocking IHOP’s new endeavor.
But not everyone was panning the marketing move. Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) tweeted, “This IHOP/IHOB thing is pretty brilliant… how many companies can get the entire internet talking about them based on a marketing campaign where they pretend to change their name? And how many people knew before today that they even served burgers?” And Kevin (@kevinwxgg) tweeted, “Credit to IHOP: They’re garnering more media attention than the moon landing for adding seven hamburgers to their menu.”
IHOP’s Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley told USA Today the restaurant has always sold burgers. The name change, though, is meant to help the franchise connect with more people. “The big opportunity for the IHOb brand is to develop our lunch and dinner business,” he explains. “Burgers are the most consumed entrée item for men, women, and children in America,” he continued, adding “it made sense to start with burgers.”
So, what can other companies take away from this experiment from IHOP? Tread carefully when it comes to marketing gimmicks because what may sound like a great plan in the boardroom may possibly bomb the minute it’s made public. In IHOP’s case, why on earth would they take a pancake—the one thing they’re known for—and replace it with a burger, something many people probably weren’t even aware was on the menu?
Haley explained the thinking behind the name change well enough, but, as you can see from the comments above, the public seems to be torn. How many customers might the restaurant lose because they dislike the rebranding or consider it a “dumb idea?” On the other hand, how many people (who haven’t set foot inside and IHOP since college) may decide to make a visit to try the newly revamped burgers?
You’ve got to hand it to them; they make a pretty good case for why the public should take notice. Each of the seven new “steakburgers” boast all-natural, 100% USDA Choice Black Angus Beef—not something available at Wendy’s or Burger King. To top it off, IHOb is offering each of the burgers as a combo with a drink and unlimited fries starting at just $6.99—the same (or even less) you’d pay at a typical fast food joint.
Smart or silly, the campaign worked…the Internet is buzzing about a restaurant ranked #107 out of the 126 chain restaurants in America by Eat This, Not That! magazine. Not too shabby. (Sources: Twitter; IHOP.com; CNET Magazine; The Washington Post; Deseret News Publishing Company; HubSpot.)