Brands We Love: IHOP “Pancakes”    


1958 brought with it a whole new generation of American consumers. They adored the New York Yankees, changed Crayola’s Prussian Blue to Midnight Blue, and fell in love with the newest household icon, Mr. Clean. There were many ways 1958 changed the course of American history: launching Vanguard 1 and the invention of the Hula Hoop. But most importantly, 1958 changed the landscape of breakfast. Cue the International House of Pancakes, or as we know it today, IHOP.   


Al and Jerry Lapin changed the breakfast game forever in 1958 with the grand opening of International House of Pancakes in Los Angeles. With their iconic A-frame design and blue roofs, this breakfast joint swept their L.A. suburb off its feet. In 1960, the brothers franchised the restaurant and in 1973, they officially dubbed themselves “IHOP.” Today, you can find IHOP in 1,650 locations around the world for that quick pancake fix.   



…is that they aren’t quintessentially American like burgers. In the summer of 2018, IHOP, a seemingly quiet brand who sat back and flipped pancakes, had something different in mind. It was time for a change, a revitalization of IHOP’s expertise in affordable, everyday dining. So, they threw something at us out of left field. They changed their name to IHOb.   

First hinted on their Twitter account, the tweet had pancake fans reeling. But their move was smart. They merely flipped the “p” to a “b,” taking their time disclosing what exactly what it meant. So, the speculation ensued, with many guessing it stood for brunch. Except that would’ve been too predictable. The “b” actually stood for burgers. Steakburgers, to be exact. A whole new seven-steakburger lineup.   


“We knew we had a very tough job to do to convince people that we take our burgers as seriously as we take our pancakes,” said Stephanie Peterson, IHOP’s executive director of communications.  


Since its beginning, IHOP was a beacon for all things breakfast foods, like their popular Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity®. Why would such an iconic breakfast chain stray away from their proverbial bread and butter? Or more importantly, why would they willingly have their audience in a full-blown uproar, fearing that their beloved pancakes would soon have an expiration date?  


The answer is smarter than you’d believe. They ended up getting one of the most valuable marketing tools out there—word of mouth. With their social media in full swing, showing short videos playing into 2019 meme culture, IHOP was able to raise their Word of Mouth one week after its initial IHOb announcement, according to YouGov 

“We’re at the tipping point of where social and digital will become the bigger driver of awareness, sales and traffic for most advertisers,” said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for IHOP on USA Today. 


All that chatter has paid off…to some extentAccording to another poll by YouGov, the rebranding efforts didn’t cause a spike in IHOP’s purchase consideration score. In fact, it remained only consistent. And although there are many skeptics who say IHOP’s mild hilarity won’t cause a drive in sales, IHOP’s main reason for the rebrand was only to drive awareness. However, many marketers might say that the two are one in the same. 


So, whether your brand is an old soul, like IHOP, ready for a change, or your brand is brand-new and looking for some skin in the game, it’s important to know your goals. IHOP certainly had a vision, and though they’re not a client at SFW, we know the amount of gumption it takes to put your brand’s reputation on the line. You don’t win by playing it safe—you win by playing it smart.  

That’s why we create transparent relationships with our clients on a day-to-day basis. Here at SFW, we’re constantly tackling re-brands for our clients, big or small, where we provide new perspectives and unique ideas that help them stand out, albeit in-aisle or online. By using our talented insights team, we’re able to gather research about each brand individually to figure out what’s going to work best and how we can make that happen.  

There’s a whole world of things to consider when it comes to rebranding: research, branding, content, creative, digital, retail...the list goes on. Luckily, when you choose to work with SFW, we have all of those services under one awesome roof. Need a brand refresh or wanna start from scratch? Reach out to our new business team to get started  

Build a strong brand.

Build a strong brand.

Know your audience, know yourself, and know your brand with these free tools and videos.

Get access