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IHOb Stunt = All Talk, Few Sales

I hope they never do this again.
I’ve never been a fan of brands pulling pranks or stunts.
At its best, a stunt can capture people’s attention in the short-term and get them talking about a brand. At its worst, a stunt pulls people’s chains and pisses them off. IHOP’s recent “name stunt” produced a lot word-of-mouth, but from what I’ve gathered, didn’t produce a lot of burgers-in-mouth.
What did you think of IHOP’s so-called name change to “IHOb” — The International House of Burgers? According to industry sources, the stunt didn’t move the sales needle, but it did get people talking. IHOP’s brand has always been steeped in Americana and is a favorite breakfast destination. Like many restaurants fighting to build business throughout the various mealtimes of the day, IHOP wanted to focus on selling more than breakfast. Noble objective, but when you think about it, telling the world that IHOP is changing its name may not have been the best way to do it.

Campaigns Should Be Calculated & Consistent With the Brand

First off, screwing with people’s heads probably wasn’t good for the authenticity of the IHOP brand. Let’s face it: In these times of “fake news,” truth isn’t something you want to play with, especially for a straight-and-narrow brand like IHOP. Plus, the burger arena is very crowded right now, with the likes of Five Guys, Red Robin, Shake Shack and Smashburger currently crushing it. Did IHOP really think IHOb was going to cut into their formidable momentum? Second, IHOP has always been a trustworthy brand, and this kind of stunt felt unbecoming of its character. It seemed like the name stunt was more of a Carl’s, Jack-in-the-Box, or even Taco Bell move.
Burger King did their “Whopper Freak-Out,” where they videoed customers freaking out after being told that the burger chain had discontinued their world-famous Whopper. Given the challenger nature of the BK brand and the work that was being done at the time (i.e., a man running around with a big “King” head on and the viral “Subservient Chicken” website), it worked. The IHOb move didn’t fit the brand’s personality. And according to some industry sources, the sales numbers support this.

According to Foursquare data, the brand saw a 4.6% increase in visits from male customers in the days following the burger announcement but experienced a 2.2% decrease in female customers visiting the chain. According to IHOP, the Foursquare numbers don’t accurately depict the impact to sales, but I’m guessing you could probably debate the numbers either way.

Worth it in the end?

My question is, what impact did the stunt have on the overall integrity and authenticity of the brand, and was it really worth pulling people’s chains? While I don’t know the hard sales numbers, I’m guessing that it won’t have much impact in the longer-term success of the brand, and people will always love IHOP for breakfast. I can’t help but think there was probably a better, more authentic way for the brand to communicate that IHOP sells hamburgers.

By Gary Kopervas

Gary is a self-proclaimed “creative misfit” in that he doesn’t fit neatly into any one compartment or department. He’s an insight spotter, brand strategist, writer, content creator, creative facilitator, product innovator and a nationally syndicated cartoonist.

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