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Here’s Why IHOP’s Rebranding is Already a Fail

by Jason Unger, Founder

After teasing a name change from IHOP to IHOb — including a dramatic flipping of the “p” in their logo to a “b” — the company formerly known as the International House of Pancakes reveled their new name as the International House of Burgers.

All across the Internet, there was a collective … “Huh?”

It certainly wasn’t what most people were expecting when IHOP announced they’d be changing their name. Most of the speculation centered on the “b” standing for breakfast … which would make sense, given their menu of breakfast foods.

IHOP didn’t change their logo, colors or much of their visual identity during the rebrand; they simply flipped the “p” into a “b”. But even in the first 24 hours after announcing the name change, it’s clear the rebrand is already a fail.

Here’s why.

Their Customers Don’t See Them as a Burger Joint

IHOP has always been known as a place to get breakfast, in the morning or throughout the day. So it wasn’t a huge shock when they announced they were changing their name to IHOb, since becoming the International House of Breakfast made sense.

But burgers?

No one goes to IHOP to get burgers.

Why would they think that their customers would all of a sudden see them as a burger joint?

IHOP can’t simply say “We’re in the burger business now!” and expect their customers to see them as a totally different restaurant.

Rebranding is an opportunity to better tell your story, but if your story requires your customers to see you in a totally different light, it’s not going to work.

It’s Not an Evolution of Their Brand

A good rebranding takes an evolving brand and puts a better face on it.

Rebranding helps your brand identity catch up to where your business has gone — not the other way around.

So if IHOP they wanted to be in the burger business, they should have introduced more lunch and dinner options, including burgers, and promoted them heavily — until consumers began to connect IHOP with all-day food.

Then, if it made sense, make the name change.

When Dunkin’ Donuts started selling bagels, they didn’t change their name to Dunkin’ Bagels. They added bagels to their menu, and over time people began to associate bagels, donuts and other breakfast foods with the Dunkin’ Donuts brand.

The name change, without the brand evolution, hurts their existing business as well. A number of tweets to the @ihob account asked if they’d still be offering pancakes, which they will be — but it’s certainly not clear.

They’ve Already Become a Laughing Stock

It did not take long for brands — many of them restaurants, including burger brands — to weigh in on the name change.

Burger King changed their Twitter name to Pancake King, and changed their cover photo to pancakes.

Pancake King

Wendy’s, Whataburger, MoonPie, A&W and DiGiornio all piled it on.

A lot of these brands have social media managers good at newsjacking, but it’s one thing when everyone is laughing together … and another when they’re clearly laughing at one brand.

To make this marketing fail even worse, IHOb tried to be cute and spell words with “b” instead of “p” — like, “we abbreciate your batience” — and it just came off as corny.

Here’s How You Do Rebranding Right

I feel for the team at IHOb; clearly, they tried to do something they saw as good for their business and valuable for their customers — while making the marketing fun — but it isn’t working.

IHOb didn’t even seem to finish the rebranding in time for the launch of the new name. Their website is still ihop.com — though they may own ihob.com, which is currently just a picture of a cheeseburger — and the old IHOP logo is still present in many places on their site.

It’s a really weird rebranding in many ways. While I’m curious to hear the backstory of what spurred the name change, I wouldn’t be surprised if the company backpedals on the rebrand at some point.

If you’re thinking about rebranding, learn how to do it right. Download Rebranding: A Digital Ink Guide and get our advice and insight on making your rebranding successful.

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About Jason Unger

Jason Unger is the Founder of Digital Ink. He built his first website on Geocities, and hasn't looked back since. Digital Ink tells stories for forward-thinking businesses, mission-driven organizations, and marketing and technology agencies in need of a creative and digital partner.

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