'IHOb' might be a big win for IHOP despite mixed reception to burgers
- IHOP announced Monday that it is temporarily changing its name to IHOb, with the "b" standing for burgers in promotion of its new Ultimate Steakburgers menu items, per a news release. The company has changed its Twitter handle and re-branded a flagship restaurant in Hollywood, California, where it is hosting a VIP — or "VIB" — launch party.
- IHOP is supporting the rebrand through an ad featuring a manager on one of the chain's blue roofs, risking his life to spread the news about the new burgers. Created with Droga5, the video will air nationally on TV, online and on social media. The seven new Steakburgers, including the Big Brunch, Cowboy BBQ, Jalapeno Kick, Mushroom & Swiss, the Classic, the Classic with Bacon and Mega Monster, are made with 100% USDA Black Angus ground beef and are served on a brioche bun.
- IHOb was a risky move for IHOP but could point to new avenues in terms of how brands handle PR stunts, according to an analysis in MarketWatch. Carreen Winters, the chairman of reputation and chief strategy officer at the PR agency MWWPR, noted to MarketWatch that IHOP was able to spin a relatively small change to its menu into a social media craze, all without spending "millions or tens of millions of dollars." Celebrities, like Chrissy Teigen, and other brands, including Wendy's, Waffle House and Netflix, all chimed in in anticipation of or after the rollout of the name change, turning it into a "pop culture" event, Winters said. Burger King also changed its Twitter name to Pancake King in response to the campaign.
Reactions to "IHOb" have appeared mixed, with consumers wondering why a chain best known for serving pancakes and breakfast would join the crowded burger field — but that might not matter. The fact that there are so many reactions has allowed IHOP to capture the social media conversation, particularly on Twitter, for nearly a full week, which has resulted in plenty of buzz and earned media coverage. As Winters noted to MarketWatch, this has been accomplished with fairly low overhead — essentially through a sole tweet teasing the change and some PR — with a national ad push only rolling out now to further support something that's already top-of-mind for many consumers.
IHOP's strategy shows how brands adding a little mystery to teasing new menu items or products can stoke consumer interest and conversations in the lead-up to a launch. Twitter also continues to be a strong channel for those in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) space, in particular, allowing for more one-to-one, casual interactions with followers. Other QSR brands have quickly glommed onto the IHOb craze and some, like Burger King, are even spinning its momentum into their own marketing stunts.
IHOb initially invited speculations of the "b" standing for breakfast, bacon or biscuits, which would be more in-line with IHOP's popular offerings. Fans of IHOP let down about the new burgers could still possibly burn the brand in the long run. The YouTube spot supporting the menu additions has far more dislikes than likes at press time, with strong negativity expressed in the comments. This could come back to bite IHOP, as the name change and burger-centric campaign appear to be an effort to court a wider customer base outside the breakfast crowd. IHOP also appears to be tapping into the "better burger" craze, where consumers prefer higher quality meat and nontraditional toppings.
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