Ihop name change a PR disaster – or was it?

IHOPUS-headquartered pancake restaurant Ihop drew a massive social media backlash after announcing it was changing its brand to Ihob – with the b for burgers.

But the Ihop name change turned out to be a publicity stunt – to try to share the message amongst the ranks of American fast-food fans that the ubiquitous chain was just as good at making burgers as its trademark, calorie-laden pancakes.

So while the company had to fend off thousands of criticisms from its customers – most of whom failed to read the small print in the announcement that it was a “temporary” change – the subsequent publicity ensured there will be few people across America this morning who don’t know that Ihop – or Ihob – serves burgers as well as pancakes.

“@IHOb the b stands for blasphemy,” tweeted one dismayed customer. Another said it stood for “international house of betrayal”.

“The world is spiraling out of control and I can’t understand why IHOP would force us to deal with more unwelcome change,” said another. And yet another: “Why is ihop going thru a mid life crisis.”

Rival chains climbed on the bandwagon with some good-natured jibes, as well:

“Not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard,” tweeted Wendy’s.

And Whataburger tweeted: “As much as we love our pancakes, we’d never change our name to Whatapancake”.

Guessing game

Prior to the Ihop name change the company held an online survey, teasing the new Ihob name and inviting people to guess what the b stood for. More than 30,000 people guessed words ranging from bananas to bacon, brunch to breakfast.

After the furore, Ihop president Darren Rebelez told CNN (yes, he go onto CNN – that’s how successful this PR stunt was!) the company will always be named Ihop, “but we want to convey that we are taking our burgers as seriously as our pancakes”.

“Burgers are a quintessential, American menu item so it makes perfect sense that Ihop … would go over the top to create a delicious lineup of quality burgers,” added Nevielle Panthaky, the chain’s “culinary chief”.

Ihop, which turned 60 this year, has nearly 1800 locations across the US, including a flagship in Hollywood, California, which was converted into an Ihob for yesterday’s brand launch party.

Unsurprisingly, marketing experts were heaping praise on Ihop.

“Credit to IHOP: They’re garnering more media attention than the moon landing for adding seven hamburgers to their menu,” wrote Kevinwxgg in a tweet, quoted by the Washington Post in a story headlined “IHOP’s name change is what happens when brands exploit the Internet outrage cycle”.

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