Private view: Ihop's name change stunt gets a solid B+

Jeff Benjamin

Executive creative director, Barton F. Graf 

Sometimes I can’t tell if a brand just stumbles into something genius or if they intentionally planned it the whole time.

At first I thought Ihop’s name change to Ihob was a little silly. (The "b" is for burger… really?) But then the burger giants took the bait. They couldn’t help but want to pile on and be part of the fun – probably to poke a little fun. But in the end helping to create a moment for consumers to reassess this 60 year old brand. And then even they joined in the fun.

No amount of media can buy that kind of participation.

In one moment Ihop or Ihob changed its peers from being Waffle House and Denny’s – to Burger King, Wendy’s and McDonalds. For the first time in history, they are known for a menu item other than pancakes.

The difference between gimmick and genius is commitment. Our instinct as marketers is to immediately judge or dismiss it the moment we’re not seeing massive return. The kind change Ihob probably wants requires commitment. And that requires patience.

Sadly, in the time it's taken me to write this critique - they’ve already changed their name back to Ihop. Let's hope their actual burgers are made with a little more commitment.

Greg Hahn

Chief Creative Officer, BBDO NY

As of this writing, Ihop was the #1 trending topic on Twitter. Ihob was #3. (The President meeting with North Korea to discuss the fate of the world and nuclear disarmament was #2, behind Ihop.)

Teaser campaigns are a delicate trick to pull off.  They invite people to engage their wildest imaginations, and therefore, the reveal is almost always a let-down. So, unless Ihop was going to start offering every customer pancakes with Antonio Banderas, the reveal of the "b" is bound to feel a bit underwhelming. 

In this case however, judging from the reaction online, the tradeoff of expectations vs reality seemed to be worth it for Ihop. Yes, there are a great number of people who are disappointed that they can’t get drunk or do their banking at Ihop, but I suspect they’ll recover soon and go on to lead normal productive lives. Most importantly, for the marketers at Ihop, there are a large number of people who are psyched to learn the b is for burgers.

The payoff 30-second spot is pretty standard fast food fare. It doesn’t quite live up to the boldness of the idea. Upon multiple viewings, actually, sorry couldn’t watch it more than once.

Overall, I would say, if the goal was to generate a ton of buzz around IHOP introducing hamburgers, mission accomplished. Not an easy goal btw.

Update, since the original date of this writing, Ihob has changed its name back to IHOP, and we are no closer to nuclear disarmament.