Just as the weather started heating up this summer, so did IHOP’s latest campaign. The organization, known as IHOP for more than 60 years, announced on June 4 that the restaurant chain is changing its acronym to IHOb, but scandalously omitted what the new letter would represent. The announcement and subsequent speculation about the moniker’s new meaning made waves on a national scale, sparking conversation from consumers and the industry alike.
Consumers shared creative and snarky guesses via Twitter, ultimately building a structurally sound podium for the letter’s meaning announcement on June 11: IHOb officially stands for International House of Burgers (for now). News outlets from USA Today, Washington Post to TIME covered the drama and the engagement from other brands that followed. Here are a few reasons why IHOb’s creative approach stands out in a sea of other brand news.
Step 1: It left room for the imagination.
Speculation is human nature. We like to think of all possibilities, sometimes realistic or not, but it’s a source of entertainment. And it’s even better when we can share our theories with our friends. IHOb left room for creativity to discuss all the “b” possibilities, fueled by the most essential element: curiosity. Curiosity creates conversation and interest, which then translates into engagement. This engagement then prompted action for IHOb: its same-store sales saw positive growth for the first time in seven quarters.
Relevancy can be a source of currency for brands, and this guerrilla campaign converted into big results. Announcing upfront that “b” stands for burgers takes the fun out of it, and answers the question before anyone can ask. Let your audience’s minds wander for higher engagement and ultimately, action.
Step 2: It was divisive.
Imagine if the persona of a familiar brand or person announces it will change completely. It’s like Michael Jordan taking a season off to pursue baseball. Sure, he’s awesome at baseball, but we know him for his dominance in basketball. That’s his specialty… and pancakes was IHOb’s. By changing just one letter, IHOb reconfigured an iconic symbol and changes the entire foundation of its existence (cue the dramatic music). Yes, there were already other food items on the menu, but that’s not the point! Like it or hate it, it still provokes a reaction. The controversy triggers passion, and passion starts major conversation. The next time you consider your brand’s next campaign, think of options outside the box to spawn a response.
Step 3: New Branding was swift and cohesive.
Once the announcement went live, IHOb was all in. Logos were ready to use, social media photos and descriptions aligned, and website pages adapted. Even for those who hadn’t seen the news, they could still stumble upon the rebranding through IHOb’s existing ecosystem. These reinforcements displayed solidarity, showing up in news feeds across the country. Campaign messaging was air tight, conveying exactly the idea and nothing further. So if your organization is looking to make a bang, set a go-live date, be sure that materials are ready to go and make it happen!
The power of change (even if it's just temporary) worked in iHOb’s favor, turning a juicy story into a savory production. Are you looking to make a bang with your next promotion or campaign? Contact our media relations and social media pros to start the conversation.