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Why IHOP’s Fake Name-Change was Real News

July 16, 2018

They didn't really change their name, yet IHOP's recent publicity stunt landed the company on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other major media—reaping millions of dollars of free advertising for the pancake giant. 

In case you missed it, IHOP said it was changing its name to IHOB (note the “b” at the end) to mark the introduction of a new menu featuring burgers and demonstrate that the company is as committed to lunch and dinnertime fare as breakfast. But the change wasn't for real. It was a fake-out.

Why so much publicity for a silly stunt?

In a word, branding. IHOP is so well known among consumers for doing one thing right and well that the notion the company was changing course was unexpected and big news. Think “Man bites dog” but on a grander scale (and without the teeth marks).

It's a testament to the colossal power of branding. If IHOP had not invested over the long term to create a brand that's become synonymous with pancakes, no one would have cared that it was changing its name (or not).