When marketers at IHOP, a casual dining brand known for its pancake-focused breakfast products, announced that they were changing their name to reflect a new focus on burgers, students of marketing probably got a good laugh. Obviously, the whole thing was a publicity stunt designed to highlight the company's lagging lunch menu, with a focus on the most popular lunch item in America--the hamburger. After-breakfast sales have been lagging for years and marketers decided that they needed some creative ideas? And so for a very, very brief time, the company was known as IHOb (notice the lower-case "b"). Silly? Perhaps. But did it work?
Yes, indeed. The very short-lived social media-based marketing campaign garnered more than 30 billion media impressions and was the topic of 20,000 news stories. And IHOP's "Word of Mouth Score", a measure of marketplace buzz, increased from 19% to 30% in the week after the announcement. What a coup for marketers at IHOP, and shame on all of the gullible folks who actually thought the company actually changed its name, abandoning much of the brand equity it has painstakingly built over many decades. Bah! The Barons of Breakfast would never do such a thing unless the brand were in real trouble. But it isn't in trouble, and now we all know that in addition to pancakes, IHOP has a pretty robust lunch menu as well. And all of this without a massive, long-running advertising campaign!
It is too early to tell whether or not the whole strategy will result in increased revenue, but soon the industry will know if the marketing ploy will have a long-lasting impact on the brand. it really wasn't even much of a risk, but whatever does end up happening, lunch is a declining business in the food service world, and so marketers at IHOP who decided that they wanted to do something to beef up sales for both lunch and dinner are to be commended. I hear that the burgers are good, but I'm not sure that Red Robin is overly-concerned quite yet. Should they be?
Discussion: Were you aware of IHOP's marketing effort? What could marketers have done to make it more effective? Do you think the brand will be able to penetrate the saturated burger market? Why or why not?
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