Last month the pancake chain seemingly rebranded itself as the company introduced a line of black angus burgers, though it has had burgers on the menu for some time.
Even competitors piled on their commentary. When Wendy’s was asked its opinion on Twitter, the burger chain responded, “Not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard.”
The buzz generated by IHOP’s name change campaign started during the week-long lead-up to the reveal of what the 'B' stood for. People guessed everything from bitcoin to Beyoncé. The buzz continued through the burger promotion, until this week’s un-branding. Whether that buzz translates to profits has yet to be seen.
Company spokeswoman Stephanie Peterson said in an email that the company was happy about the attention generated by the campaign. “(W)e’re incredibly proud of the IHOb campaign … it did exactly what it was intended to do, which was to get people talking about, and thinking differently about, IHOP.”
According to survey data from the YouGov Brand Index, the number of adults in the U.S. who said they talked about IHOP with family or friends, as well as the number who remembered seeing an advertisement for IHOP, jumped the week after the name change announcement. That viewership doesn’t necessarily translate into sales, as the Brand Index said the number of people considering a purchase remained flat following the campaign.
Plenty of people on Twitter expressed doubt early on that the name change was real, and CNN reported a suspicious lack of paper trail that would indicate an official name change. The company also confirmed to the Associated Press after the name change announcement that it was a “tongue-in-cheek” promotion for their summer burger menu, and the company’s press release announcing the name change said the change would be “for the time being.”
IHOP isn’t the first company to pull a fake-out stunt to garner attention. What looked like a preview for a new Crocodile Dundee movie turned out to be an advertisement for Tourism Australia that ran during the 2018 Super Bowl. Viewers, however, were let in on the joke a little more than a minute into the commercial. In 2016, esurance released an ad for April Fools’ Day for election insurance, described on its website as “bipartisan coverage (that) will protect your home for the next four years if your preferred candidate loses the presidential election and you choose to leave the country.” Zumba Fitness and iRobot, the creator of the Roomba vacuum robot, joined forces to create prank commercials for the Zumba Roomba for their own April Fools’ Day stunt.
But for these other campaigns, the fake ad in question usually consisted of a one-off video or promotion. Not in recent memory has a company committed to a prank rebranding that lasted an entire month.