Who doesn’t want their breakfast served with a heaping side dish of bad marketing? The International House of Pancakes, which has been around for 60 years, has announced on Twitter that it is changing its acronym from IHOP to IHOb. No word yet on what that means for its full name.
The company tweeted: “For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb. Find out what it could b on 6.11.18. #IHOb.” The restaurant chain has been urging followers to guess what the “b” signifies. Fans were urged to vote about what they thought it meant, choosing options like “Bacon” or “Barnacles.” (Yum!)
As of this writing, bacon is deservedly winning. But a major company hopping toward a possibly half-baked new name and only getting 34,000 votes for its naming survey says a lot about how hot the IHOP brand really is. (Hint: If they wouldn’t serve you something this cold – even with syrup.)
That doesn’t solve the mystery of the killer “b,” which Internet users have widely interpreted to mean “breakfast.” The implication is that customers at more than 1,650 IHOP/IHOb restaurants in the U.S, as well as Mexico, Bahrain and several other countries, don’t realize the company does more than pancakes.
Rather than leap to the assumption this will be a New Coke level marketing disaster (1,000 on a scale of 1-10), many are panning the move and the new name is being battered. The Guardian scored with the best putdown, saying: “Ihop becomes Ihob in desperate blea for attention.” When even NPR says your Twitter feed is “littered with the company's coy responses” about the move, it’s fair to be skeptical.
It’s also just as fair to assume some marketing “genius” decided an official name change could make the company more “hip” or PC. Alaskans witnessed this recently when Mt. McKinley turned into Mt. Denali. The 20,310-foot-peak (the highest in North America) didn’t get any easier to climb, it just got harder to spell.
Journalists know this process all too well as they watched the venerable Chicago Tribune company change its publishing arm to “tronc.” (A moronic short form for Tribune online content.) IHOP isn’t getting troncated, though IHOb conjures up other marketing problems.
The term “hob” has several definitions and can mean a place on a stove to warm plates and pans, as well as the hub of a wheel or a male ferret. (Ferrets, they’re not just for breakfast anymore!). Urban Dictionary describes “hub” as “buff” or “strong,” as well as the singular form for husband. None of those really shouts “Breakfast!” to a hungry world.
“Hob” is also a computer game produced by Runic Games. Perhaps players will now indicate their game of choice merely by saying: “I Hob.” Or perhaps, IHOP’s lack of cool factor will harm the game entirely.
And speaking of “cool,” I just remembered I need to vote another few thousand times for ‘bacon.” Because International House of bacon might seem like a rasher idea, but it could cure any marketing problem.