IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, has been generating fanfare for teasing a name change to IHOB. On Monday, after speculation ranging from the B representing bacon or breakfast (traditionalAF) to Beyoncé (WTF), IHOP ended the speculation.
B stands for Burgers.
Because, you know, all restaurants want to fill up the parts of the day where they're open but sucking wind on customer traffic, so...
...why not BURGERS?
Emma and I were chatting on Monday about the IHOP brand strategy. I predicted that the whole thing, while couched in a big brand strategy change, was actually a short-term promotion. My thought was that it's a New Coke kind of brand strategy cooked up by an ad agency. It will run for like three weeks. IHOP will happily accept all the, “OMG, HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE?” attention-getting social media posts, the taunts of competitors, and the follow-on media coverage.
Because, without all of this noise, no one would be talking about IHOP!
Then in a few weeks, they’ll go, “You know what? YOU ALL ARE RIGHT. WE’RE ABOUT PANCAKES. HOW FUNNY! AND PLEASE TALK ABOUT US SOME MORE!!!”
A Business Insider story reports that IHOP (which I use because I've not seen any mention of this name change being real) has added seven burgers to the menu. Because after a year of talking to their customers, the big insight was that the market is looking for burgers from IHOP.
In the article, they admit that this is a temporary IHOP brand strategy. It's clear from miles away that the burger push is an attempt to drive lunch and dinner traffic. (See also Starbucks: Pushing cold drinks to drive afternoon and evening traffic. Plus providing places to pee for everyone in the free world).
So really, the story is that IHOP is couching a promotion in a brand change they're more than willing to undo, because the IHOP brand strategy change part was never real.
This is, I think, their formula:
- A variation on the Google home page / Coke first names / Snickers funny labels front end: Let’s do a promotion and make it seem like branding!
- Followed by a cheap, blatant play for social media and press coverage
- Followed by a variation on the end game strategy Coca-Cola used with New Coke: We’re going back to what we know best – which you all pointed out to us, but we forgot – and it’s all cool because we have a new offering launched in the marketplace!
That's how I'm calling it. But whether I’m right or wrong, if your brand isn't getting all the attention you think it should, you have to ask the question: Are we willing to be cheap and pathetic to get attention? Or can we earn it with a brand-authentic strategy?
The other question is how often will IHOP go back to the well on this brand strategy. How many name changes do you think they can pull off over the next five years? My guess is three - at most. – Mike Brown