Rebranding can be an amazing change for your company or a complete nightmare. However, you can also use rebranding as traction to gain publicity for your company. Recently, IHOP announced a rebranding to IHOb that has had the Internet buzzing.
At the beginning of June, IHOP announced it was changing its name to IHOb. Then they left the interpretation open to what the change to the letter “B” stood for. People began to share the news and create social media buzz about the possibilities. Perhaps “B” stood for “breakfast,” which would make sense for a pancake house.
A week later, IHOP announced that the letter “B” stood for “burgers,” and they were now the International House of Burgers, releasing a new line of hamburgers as well. They released images of a new logo, going from IHOP to IHOb, but otherwise remaining the same.
The response likely wasn’t what the restaurant chain expected. Reactions were mixed, with many consumers stating they didn’t like the change. However, if their goal was to get people talking about their restaurant, they certainly achieved it. If you buy into the idea that there is no bad publicity, this rebranding is a brilliant move.
Wendy’s responded to the announcement almost immediately with one of their traditionally snarky comments.
Wendy’s also responded to a fan who asked if they were worried about the competition by stating they weren’t worried about a place that thought pancakes were too hard.
Burger King jumped in on the trending topic, too, by unveiling a parody version of their logo.
Not one to be left out, Whataburger jumped into the fray as well and commented they weren’t changing their name.
Other restaurants also posted about the announcement, including Steak ‘n’ Shake, Chili’s, Red Robin and Waffle House.
As you can see, IHOP/IHOb got a lot of traction from their announcement. The entire strategy is likely a marketing ploy to get people talking, and if that is the case, they accomplished that in spades. Here are some lessons you can learn from their marketing tactic with the “rebrand”:
1. Hit a Nerve
Even though IHOP has offered breakfast, lunch and dinner for years, apparently people are used to thinking of it as a breakfast place, and announcing the change from pancakes to burgers struck a nerve. Even though this ploy can attract some negative attention, it is also a smart way to grab attention.
The best way to elicit an emotional response is to understand your target audience fully. Once you have a feel for what they expect from your company, you’ll also have a good idea of how to shake things up.
2. Get Your Competition Talking
Probably even more important than striking a chord among consumers is that IHOP hit a nerve with the competition. If they are going to offer burgers and compete with chains such as Red Robin and Wendy’s, they need to get the word out about what they have to offer.
In this case, IHOP got their competition talking about the change, thus promoting their business to their competitors’ followers. This audience is obviously their exact target demographic, so it’s a brilliant approach. Think through how you can get your competition to talk about your business and share your name with competitors.
3. Change Your Image
Is your image stale and out of date? There is a slight possibility IHOP is serious about the name change and sincerely plans to go all-out by permanently rebranding themselves as IHOb.
There are many reasons a business might choose to change its name in this way, and even though IHOP/IHOb doesn’t seem to fit the traditional reasons for such a drastic change, the reasons may still be valid.
If your business has a bad reputation, sounds too close to another business in the same industry or you are completely changing what you do, a name change may be in order. Think long and hard before changing your name, though, as it may confuse and alienate the loyal customer base you’ve built.
4. Create Excitement
A rebranding announcement creates a certain level of excitement, and IHOP accomplished this by drawing out the suspense about what the “B” stood for in IHOb. News outlets wrote speculative articles on what the letter stood for. Social media users chatted back and forth, trying to figure out the change and how it tied into the brand’s overall image.
Use this model to create some buzz for your rebranding. Keep in mind, you don’t need to change your name. You can generate excitement about an upcoming website refresh, a new product you’re launching or other big company news. Create a bit of mystery so people look forward to the coming changes.
5. Know Your Purpose
Even though IHOP — or, rather, IHOb — generated a lot of excitement with their announcement and gained a ton of free publicity, the response wasn’t fully positive. Part of the reason for some of the snarky comments and backlash from consumers is due to people feeling IHOP’s main purpose is as a breakfast place.
While that isn’t 100 percent true, trying to push forward a new image had some negative repercussions for them that they could have avoided by stressing they would still offer the same pancakes everyone loves and that have made the chain famous.
Lessons to Learn
There are many lessons to learn from IHOP’s rebranding announcement. If you’re planning a rebrand, studying what they did offers insight into ways to generate interest. However, you can also learn from the negative aspects of the change and figure out ways to lessen any backlash from your rebranding.
At the end of the day, IHOP’s renaming to IHOb may go down as one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns in recent time. I’d rank up there with Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” and Metro Trains’ “Dumb Ways to Die.” Whenever people talk about your brand as much as people talked about IHOP/IHOb after the announcement, you’ve reached new potential customers, and that is always a winning proposition.
**As of July 9, 2018, IHOP announced, “We’d never turn our back on pancakes (except for that time we faked it to promote our new burgers)” Back to pancakes it is!