In case you’ve been living under a rock (or have too much work to spend time reading social media), IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, dove headlong into the viral marketing world by temporarily changing its name to IHOb – for Inernational House of Burgers.
It was a stunt, sure, but it generated a lot of buzz – from fast-food places who were quick to get in a turf war to sports teams. At the end of it all, IHOP revealed it was just yankin’ our chains, and the whole thing was just a way to introduce its burger menu to the world. But did the stunt pay off? And what’s it mean for the brand? OTM’s Brand Strategy and Social Media Specialist discuss what they think of the ploy.
Matt Schild, Brand Strategy Specialist: I love it! It was such an obvious stunt and so, so stupid. They got pretty much everyone on the internet talking about IHOP. I mean, when was the last time anyone you know talked about IHOP other than after last call?
Stacia Fortenbery, Digital Strategy Specialist: I almost forgot IHOP existed but also saw this and had a good chuckle at the ridiculousness. An obvious stunt that was completely grilled (see what I did there?) by other brands on Twitter. See: Wendy’s, Burger King, even the Philadelphia Phillies joined in on the fun. I think this is a case of not all press is good press.
MS: I disagree about that being bad press. I feel like they were totally in control of this from the outset, and almost certainly knew they were going to get all kinds of weird mentions from everyone. Again, it was a terribly stupid idea. And it worked! They got Wendy’s talking about IHOP to Wendy’s customers! Yeah, it was talking trash, but now all of Wendy’s people now know that IHOP serves burgers. I know that Wendy’s social team is great with the trash talk, but they really seem like they got punked on this one. If they had the foresight to let this lie (as with Burger King), nothing would have come of it. Now they literally introduced IHOP burgers to their customers. For free! That’s insane!
And the Phillies? I don’t have any idea how much it costs to get a mention or on the scoreboard at a baseball game, but I’d imagine it’s a lot.
SF: Maybe I am just a little bitter that they decided to go with burgers instead of the International House of Brunch so I had another location to get some mimosas in Fort Collins. They’ve been in business 60 years, I understand the need for a change. But when the majority of your customer base (a likely very loyal one) only comes in between 6 a.m. and noon I don’t think burgers are the answer. Publicity or not. #flashinthepan
The Phillies re-did their logo yesterday to Bhillies and it was the first thing I saw in relation to this campaign and I was so confused. I appreciate a marketing team that is quick and eager to play the game.
MS: I think you hit on why some people are so annoyed by this stunt: They have 60 years of branding as a breakfast place. I guess it’s been pretty effective at getting breakfast customers to come in at breakfast time and order breakfast. It should be a surprise to literally zero people that they have more customers in the morning than afternoons or evenings. It’s a breakfast place. “Pancakes” is in the name. You made your brand, now it’s time to lie in it.
This is a pretty good example of a company wanting to evolve their services and products and not evolve the brand to go along with it. Village Inn and Denny’s seem to have figured out in the ’80s that they needed to be more than a breakfast place, and adapted. IHOP hung its hat on the breakfast thing, that and those stupid steeply peaked roofs, forever. You can’t just wave your hands and make that go away with a marketing stunt.
SF: Steeply peak roofs + pancakes. That is IHOP. I mean, look, if it works for them great. Hopefully someone does a case study on this experiment that we can dive into in a few years.
Maybe IHOP will serve the best burger in America? I will never know, because: A) I haven’t been to IHOP since college; B) I will forget they have burgers by next week; C) I’m a Wendy’s girl.
All in all, it was a fun campaign. They did a great job of creating interest and getting customers involved on the stunt. If the goal was to just get people talking, then job well done. If the goal is to become a competitor in the burger market, then I think they’ve got some work to do.