IHOP to IHOB name change ‘dumbest’ move ever, brand experts warn

IHOP is changing its name to IHOb

What will the "b" stand for?

Goodbye IHOP and hello to IHOb!

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The 60-year-old iconic pancake chain announced it’s literally flipping its last acronym from “p” (pancakes) to “b" which stands for burgers, the company disclosed on Monday.

The breakfast joint’s acronym, coined for its host of international pancakes, teased the coming news all last week to drum up press — and encourage its customers to guess what its new name could possibly stand for — and then made the official reveal on Monday.

And while the news has created buzz for the company, Dine Brand Global, which also owns Applebee’s, many brand experts warn that the name change could be detrimental for the chain and the firm in the long run.

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“The decision to change the name may have been the dumbest decision ever made in the world of branding. Brand equity is precious. It takes years to build, and it is the cornerstone of customer loyalty. IHOP just decided to throw it away,” David Srere, co-CEO and chief strategy officer of Siegel+Gale said.

In other words, he says “equity is the pancake, not the syrup.”

Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, a brand consulting firm, says he believes the whole name change is nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”

“It's a symptom of the enormous pressures on marketers to get noticed,” Adamson said.

However, while he does agree with IHOP’s push to get consumers to think of them beyond just pancakes, its name is simply “too hard wired into consumers’ minds to be replaced by IHOB.”

“The best they hope for is that an ad and social media campaign tied to a name change will get their breakfast-beyond-pancake story to stick,” he said.

But Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing, disagrees, and says flipping the “p” in the name is all in good fun.

“It’s a lighthearted publicity stunt that’s renewing interest in the brand among a new generation of restaurant patrons for whom IHOP wasn't previously a top of mind choice for casual dining,” Gabor said, adding that while she doesn’t know what the outcome will eventually be, she admires the company’s strategy of getting a conversation going among consumers.

As for what the “b” will stand for or whether the change will be permanent, the company said the mystery will be fully revealed on Monday morning.