IHOP's burger sales jumped 4x following controversial name-change stunt
- IHOP's name change earlier this summer to IHOb, with the "b" standing for burgers, helped drum up excitement and sales for the chain's expanded line of burger offerings, executives said on a call discussing the company's second-quarter earnings.
- The promotion for Ultimate Steakburgers, which started June 4 and lasted through the end of the month, included temporary logo changes online and at certain restaurant locations. It led to more than 20,000 media stories and 36 billion earned media impressions through that period. Company officials said social media mentions of the restaurant chain reached more than 4 billion people.
- Burger sales grew four times thanks to the effort and helped drive "dinner day part sales mix” by 200 basis points during the three weeks after the campaign launched. Off-premises sales also grew. IHOP claims that, when it first tested the Ultimate Steakburgers, it saw 92% re-purchase intent, which laid the groundwork for the promotion.
IHOP was clearly able to spin a controversial promotion into a sales and brand awareness win through savvy use of social media with "IHOb." The company kicked off the campaign by teasing the name change on Twitter earlier this summer, which sparked a huge amount of interest as followers tried to guess what the "b" would stand for. Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and other brands, including Netflix and Wendy's, also joined in on the conversation, which potentially extended its appeal. Burger King even briefly swapped its Twitter name to Pancake King in response to the stunt.
Receptions to the full campaign launch and its actual focus around burgers appeared mixed, as were reactions to a national TV push supporting the effort. Still, it's clear that there were plenty of customers curious to try out the company's Ultimate Steakburgers, which lean into the growing better-for-you burgers trend by using 100% USDA black Angus beef.
Executives on the earnings call said IHOP initially saw burgers as a "huge opportunity" and said that sales have continued to be strong after the promotion (the company has since switched its name back, dispelling concerns that the change would be permanent). IHOP sells around 8 million burgers annually and the offering constitutes its most-sold dish outside the home.
The figures reported in the earnings report additionally push back against some notions that "IHOb" was considerably less successful in bolstering business than it was at drumming up online chatter. Previously-released data from FourSquare suggested that IHOP foot traffic for the week after the campaign's launch was fairly flat, and that women actually visited the brand's locations less.