This is a guest post by one of our guest bloggers.
Are you ready to sink your teeth into a new “IHob” burger?
The International House of Pancakes turned their logo’s iconic “p” into a “b” in early June, fueling mass confusion as to what the pancake palace was up to.
On Monday, June 11, we got our answer: they’re venturing into the burger industry.
The logo change was a classic publicity stunt that had people speculating (International House of Breakfast, perhaps?) and filling their Facebook and Twitter feeds with brand mentions. But the food industry can be harsh and unforgiving, and their competition showed them no mercy.
IHOBs Negative Publicity – Trolling IHOP’s Foray into Burgers
Unsurprisingly, Wendy’s didn’t keep quiet about the name change. They’re known for lambasting brands and trolling their followers, so it was only a matter of how fast they could tweet to grill IHOB over their switch to a burger-driven model.
In a separate tweet, Wendy’s also mentioned they didn’t fear an increase in competition since the change comes from a company who apparently thought pancakes were too difficult.
But Wendy’s wasn’t the only one to start a beef with the brand.
Burger King quickly released an updated logo of their own in an almost-too-easy counter-response. Your move, IHOb.
Denny’s, Whataburger, Checkers, White Castle, Chili’s Bar and Grill, and even non-restaurants like Netflix, Timehop, and Pop Tarts joined in the shade-throwing.
It’s obvious that many people were not impressed. In fact, some fans were flat out disappointed. But all this Twitter trolling hasn’t killed the campaign – in fact, it may have helped it in ways IHOP never expected.
The Viral Marketing IHob Needed
It wasn’t an official name change, but rather a creative way to introduce the brand’s foray into burgers. What they didn’t expect was the sheer amount of free advertising the stunt would pull (including this article that you’re reading right now).
IHOP first opened its doors in 1958 with its name completely spelled out. They changed to the IHOP moniker in 1973 for marketing purposes. Admittedly, there are probably plenty of people today who didn’t know what the original IHOP acronym stood for.
But despite being a classic American brand, IHop hasn’t done anything remarkable in years.
Declining sales for the past 10 quarters have plagued the brand. Known for their tasty flapjacks in the morning and late-night munchies, the company had to seek a new way to fill the lunch and dinner time slots to help turn around their numbers.
Apparently, burgers might be the answer.
Since the campaign dropped, fans are already raving about the quality, taste, and sheer size of the burgers. 100% steakburgers made with black angus beef are massive and piled high with favorite toppings like bacon, onion rings, and fried eggs.
To add to their momentum, they even changed the word ‘burger’ from a noun to a verb to encourage people to come “burger” with them. They’ve “re-burgered burgers” and are shouting from its rooftops that they’re “burgering burgers” better than anyone.
They’d have to if they want to leave a mark in an already-saturated burger market.
Top burger brands are responding loudly, calling out the chain for its anti-climactic marketing campaign. Some think it was too easy and lacked creativity. Others simply weren’t impressed. Perhaps they’re right, or maybe they’re just jealous.
In any case, it didn’t stop them from pushing their own brands into IHob’s spotlight, and they’re receiving almost as much press at the former pancake princess. In fact, all the criticism and remarks from other burger companies likely fueled the campaign’s success.
3 Quick Lessons About the Impact of Viral Negative Publicity
Throughout the trolling, sarcasm, and shade-throwing, IHob has played it cool.
“We thought that people would have fun with this, but never did we imagine that it would grab the attention of America the way it did,” says IHop spokeswoman Stephanie Peterson in a New York Times interview.
It’s unfair to consider the campaign a failure, even in the face of lambasting from other burger brands. But their responses should serve as a reminder for all marketers that even public criticism can be a good thing.
Here are three takeaways from IHob’s unofficial name change and the swirling storm of influencer comments:
All Press is Good Press, But Does it Work?
They might not like how Wendy’s or Burger King or others responded, but they can’t deny that it only added fuel to the marketing fire for IHob.
IHob received a massive amount of free advertising from their campaign, in addition to all the brand mentions and impressions from their newfound burger competitors.
Eric Schiffer of Reputation Management Consultants estimates the stunt pulled “several hundred millions of dollars in free publicity.”
Despite the buzz, the real telltale sign will be if all that publicity will actually help the chain to sell more burgers. Ony time will tell.
The Bar Has Officially Been Raised, But Is It Too High?
Now that IHob has finally done something buzzworthy, combined with the fact that people are actually loving the new burgers, they’ve raised their own bar.
Is this a new beginning for the iconic American brand? Or will it be a one-time we-got-lucky deal that everyone will forget in coming months?
Anytime a brand produces such a viral marketing campaign, there’s an unspoken expectation that they need to follow up with something equally or more impressive.
They finally earned some attention from consumers, not an easy feat in today’s digital noise. The trick now is for the brand to continue trending upward and stay top of mind.
One campaign can only go so far.
IHob Wasn’t the Only Winner of the Name Change Stunt
The initial reveal on Twitter alone garnered 22K comments, 16K retweets, and 44K Likes. These numbers don’t include any of the responses from other brands or their followers, so the true impact of the campaign is immeasurable.
What we do know is that when a campaign like this goes viral, there’s always more than one winner.
Wendy’s, Burger King, Chili’s, White Castle, and several others put their name in the game to soak up some of the free publicity during IHob’s trailblazing moment. As a result, they also got to enjoy a brief spike in brand impressions across the internet.
This isn’t anything unique. A brand campaign that goes viral like this one always opens the gates for other brands to join in, especially on social media channels like Twitter. Lesson learned: if your competition is having sudden viral success, join the fun to give your own brand a boost.
What’s in Store for IHob Now?
This viralness could be exactly what IHob needed to start afresh and remind people they’re still here. They’re certainly a brand to watch for now. Only time will tell if they can truly hit it big in the burger market.
About the Author
Alli Hill is a freelance writer for NoStop.net, helping clients grow their business through SEO and digital marketing. When she’s not at the keyboard, Alli enjoys exploring new places with her two toddlers and experimenting in the kitchen.