Four Reasons IHOP’s “IHOb” Stunt Is the PR Coup of the Summer

FLM Harvest

With summer just beginning, pancake chain IHOP has already taken the PR world by storm with a standout publicity stunt: a temporary name change from “IHOP” to “IHOb.”

Just whatexactly does IHOb stand for? International House of Burgers.

Yes, burgers.

The temporary name change spotlights the brand’s new Ultimate Steakburger menu, earning headline media coverage and social chatter at a level IHOP has likely never experienced. I mean, seriously, did you think we’d be talking about IHOP this summer?

While the initiative is a bit outlandish, the outpouring of attention is rightfully earned. At its core, the stunt follows prudent, tried-and-true principles that are too often missing in PR strategy.

Here are the four core principles that have helped ensure IHOP’s success as the PR coup of the summer:

The campaign ladders up to an overall strategy.
Clearly, IHOP had a strategic mission to reposition itself beyond its long-term perception as an all-day breakfast joint in a cluttered foodservice environment. Rather than relying solely on traditional advertising tactics to announce their Ultimate Steakburgers, IHOP, or should I say IHOb, elevated the conversation to be more about who IHOP is.

The initiative is more than just words and images.
Too often, companies rely only on short videos, memes or a quick press release to garner attention. This stunt was more than just talk, going as far as actually changing restaurant signage at select locations.

The campaign is not a one-off. It’s a story in three acts.
So many PR stunts focus on a one-time occurrence in the hopes of snagging enough attention for one news cycle. Rather than doing this, IHOP’s campaign is a three-tiered tactic. They first teased the internet with the campaign last week, making their way onto the media’s radar. They unveiled the campaign this week (news cycle #2) and are sure to earn an appearance in a third news cycle upon changing the name back to IHOP.

They don’t disparage competition.
Many PR strategies involve taking cheap shots at competitors, taking the low road as a way to earn attention. When it comes to selling burgers, IHOP has plenty of competition. Instead, they took the high road and focused only on themselves, making the campaign cheeky, not competitive. As a result, other food chains got in on the fun, garnering even more coverage for IHOP.

Now, will I go to IHOP or IHOb this summer and order a burger? Probably not, and why would I when there are so many delicious mushroom blended burgers being served at restaurants nationwide this summer?

However, that’s not the point. The point is that I AM thinking about IHOP again, about how much I love their fluffy pancakes and seemingly endless mounds of melting butter.

That, I’m guessing, was their long-term PR objective all along.



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