An IHOP by any other name would smell as sweet. Or, in this case, savory.
On June 5th, IHOP (rip) announced on Twitter that they would be unveiling a new name, “IHOb,” the following Monday. What followed was an internet guessing game—and many curious fans, including the Precision team, spent the intervening days hypothesizing what the “b” the company had teased would stand for. “Breakfast” was the popular consensus.
On Monday June 11th, the IHOb announced the change: the “b” stands for “burgers,” which the restaurant claims is now their focus. Only one person in our office got it right (and, to be fair, he is a former Jeopardy! Kids Week champion) because… burgers at IHOP/b?*
The internet promptly freaked out about what a terrible idea it was. But the internet freakout ended up proving itself wrong. In changing their name, IHOb shined a light on a part of their menu that hardcore pancake fans like us usually gloss over.
After the denizens of Twitter got their jokes in, other fast-casual chains joined in on the roasting. Many fast-food social media accounts are notoriously savvy at joining in with the zeitgeist, and given the opportunity to make jokes at another chain’s expense, establishments like Wendy’s and Burger King charbroiled IHOb. This dogpile of mockery might have seemed like bad news for IHOb in the moment, but it only served to increase the brand’s share of the internet’s attention.
Of course, because fast-food chains are consistently good at social media, a cottage industry of online content about the latest fast-food chain zingers has emerged—which is to say, following the wave of content around the initial “IHOb” announcement, a second wave of content emerged to recap the backlash to the brand change.
Just a sampling of headlines:
- IHOP grilled by Burger King, Wendy’s on Twitter over IHOb name change
- Best Twitter Reactions To IHOP Changing Name to IHOb
- IHOb: Wendy’s Mocks IHOP for Changing Its Name to IHOb
During the IHOb joke free-for-all, the company itself was extremely active on social media, replying to numerous tweets to keep the frenzy up.
Because the backlash was about something relatively harmless—a chain restaurant rebranding to focus on a different menu item isn’t exactly a scandal—that second round of content probably wasn’t harmful so much as it was the brand’s chance for a second bite at the apple. (Or pancake. Or burger. Or whatever.)
The company has come out and said the “IHOb” change isn’t permanent, but a promotion to, what else, highlight their burger offerings. This means the name change was a calculated stunt after all, and one they probably suspected would draw some ire and good-natured mocking—which, it appears, is exactly what they wanted.
So what’s the lesson here? By temporarily mortgaging the recognition associated with their company name, IHOP managed to increase brand awareness and make customers aware of one of their less-popular menu items. Playing it safe won’t make you stand out in today’s crowded media market. Sometimes you have to do something bold, unexpected, and contrary to conventional wisdom to really get your name out there — even if that means temporarily changing it.