All successful brands evolve over time, and this is generally a good thing. But every now and then, a brand decides to completely reinvent itself and it doesn’t work. There are some important lessons we can learn about reinventing your brand from IHOP’s bizarre rebrand and name change.
International House of… Burgers?
IHOP (International House of Pancakes) recently changed its name to IHOb, flipping the P to a b. The b is for “burgers” and IHOP wants us to know that they’re so serious about burgers now, they’ve even changed their name. The name change appears to be a short-term marketing gimmick. IHOP said in a statement they’ve changed their name and Twitter handle “for the time being.”
Regardless of whether or not it’s just a clever marketing campaign, IHOP’s rebranding of themselves with this new focus on burgers has left us scratching our heads. After all, for the last 60 years, they’ve built their brand on pancakes. Are we supposed to believe they know burgers now? It’s all very confusing, and I’m betting this is a terrible long-term strategy for their brand.
Lessons to learn when reinventing your brand
I’ve identified a few lessons entrepreneurs can learn from IHOP’s confusing new brand strategy.
Don’t tear down the trust you’ve worked so hard to build up.
There’s nothing more valuable than developing trust in your brand, and it often takes years to establish that trust. You should be careful not to make any big moves that break down that trust. IHOP’s move to burgers feels like they no longer feel confident about their pancakes. If their pancakes aren’t that good, why should we trust that their burgers will be? They’ve made us skeptical. We no longer trust them to deliver as promised.
Create a niche and own it.
There’s incredible power in owning a niche. It sets you apart from all of your competitors. It means when people think of after-church brunch or late-night pancakes, they think IHOP. Switching to burgers means they have to reestablish themselves as a burger joint. This is just never going to happen. They have no game in the burger world. It would be like Waffle House changing its name to Hot Dog House. People go to Waffle House because of the waffles, it’s never going to be a hot dog destination.
Don’t confuse quirky marketing with long-term brand strategy.
IHOP has definitely created a lot of buzz around the announcement of their name change. They’ve done a good job of generating conversation and brand awareness. Hey, we all know IHOP now sells burgers! But the effect stops right there. As a long-term strategy, it’s a terrible idea. It’s confusing and weird and will most likely just fade away like Heinz’s green ketchup or Colgate’s frozen dinners.
We like things they way they are
Time will tell how this whole reinventing of IHOP plays out, but I have a feeling that five years from now, no one will be going to IHOP for the burgers. (Come to think of it, does anyone go there today for pancakes?) I think it’s because we like things the way they are. Don’t change things on us, we don’t like change, it scares us. We like our ketchup red, we like our burgers from In ‘N Out, and we like our mediocre pancakes from IHOP.
Is this a good or bad move for IHOP? I’d love to hear your thoughts!