IHOP --> IHOB --> IHOP?

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Lessons communications professionals should take away from IHOP’s name change campaign.

By: Bethany Pappas, Summer 2018 Intern 

At the beginning of June, IHOP made a huge and surprising announcement: it was changing it’s name to ‘IHOb.’ The announcement resulted in an outpour of media attention and left thousands across social media and news outlets guessing what the “b” stood for. After nine long days of speculation, IHOb released a statement that the “b” stood for burgers, which are now part of the regular menu.

Opinions on a pancake house selling burgers aside, ‘IHOb’ certainly raised the awareness it needed to with this campaign. Let’s take a look at the important lessons all communications professionals should take away from the ‘IHOb’ campaign. 

1.     It’s import to promote your campaign across multiple media channels

IHOP first announced the name change campaign with some mysterious posts to it’s Facebook and Twitter profiles. In addition to the original announcements across it’s social media platforms, the company renamed it’s verified Twitter account @IHOb and purchased the domain name ihob.com. The company also released a commercial to encourage social media users to make their guesses before the new name was revealed.  Shortly after these media changes and announcements, multiple restaurant locations changed their signs from a “p” to a “b.” Although these were physical changes, customers were quick to snap photos and post them online which only fueled the social media uproar. 

2.     Engage your audience—give them a powerful voice

As part of it’s campaign strategy, IHOP’s social media team immediately started interacting with the thousands of confused individuals online. The team actually turned the campaign into a guessing game by posting multiple prompts asking social media users what they thought the “b” stood for. By letting it’s audience do most of the talking, IHOP transformed an announcement into a space of user creativity and therefore active engagement. With at least 30,000 replies in the first 24 hours of the announcement, you could say the interactive campaign strategy was a success. 

3.     Always have a backup plan

 Unknown to the average social media user, the name change is only temporary. The heading of IHOP’s initial press release reads, “IHOP® CHANGES NAME TO IHOb℠.” As you can see, the company uses “SM,” which is a service mark. The use of a service mark instead of a brand name itself ensures the change is not permanent. In addition, although the company did purchase the domain name ihob.com, IHOP.com remains the companies official website. These relatively unknown aspects of the campaign are incredibly smart on the company’s part because they ensure an escape route. 

Big risks can equal big rewards.

To celebrate the brand’s 60thbirthday, IHOP officially confirmed the name change is not permanent after all. In another genius marketing technique, IHOP uncoincidentally dropped this admission while simultaneously promoting it’s 60 cent short stack birthday promotion. In the tweet confirming the name change as a marketing stunt, the brand actually said “That’s right, IHOP! We’d never turn our back on pancakes (except for that time we faked it to promote our new burgers),” meaning all the fuss was over a marketing stunt, and a powerful one at that.

In addition to IHOP’s admission across twitter and other social media channels, Darren Rebelez, president of IHOP, confirmed the change was only temporary. The point of the campaign was to get people talking and draw attention to the company, and IHOP knew exactly how to do that. Rebelez also added, “But we want to convey that we are taking our burgers as seriously as our pancakes” and with a campaign as shocking as this one, I think we can all agree there is no doubt about that.