So You Want to Rebrand

You’re a 60-year-old much-loved American pancakes chain that happens to sell other stuff. This includes a new menu item, the steak burger, even though you’ve been serving classic burgers for a while. You decide to rebrand with a name and logo change, and that’s when the sh*t really hits the fan. Sounds familiar? You’ve probably been watching the IHOP matter play out over social media and the rubbernecking class of the global media then.

IHOP, also known as the International House of Pancakes, is a multinational American-based diner chain that specialises in breakfast foods, with 1,650 locations in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Its stores are often open 24/7. Earlier this month, it announced a simple name and logo change — flipping the ‘P’ in its name upside down, going from IHOP to IHOb.

Well Now Everything Is On Fire

Maybe its marketing department didn’t anticipate how in 2018 this would instantly leave the brand open to bad press and mass trolling from fans and its competitors. Or maybe they didn’t care: the announcement did, according to Adweek, generate “tens of millions” of impressions for the company, and some people might say that any mass media attention is good attention. A brief selection of the best responses:

1. Burger King briefly changed their name to Pancake King:

2. Wendy’s, always quick on the trigger for social media:

3. Even brands that weren’t direct competitors got in a jab:

4. And… Cookie Monster?

Eater called it the “most obnoxious brand move of the year”. The Washington Post offered a defense. The Wall Street Journal noted that many people didn’t even know what IHOP stood for (which, I confess, neither did I until this incident). The jury’s out on whether the stunt — if that’s what it is — has been worth it for IHOP/IHOb. So far, the brand isn’t budging.

Mea Culpa in the Hut

In 2009 Pizza Hut decided to change its name to “The Hut”, an idea from their marketing team to try and get the “texting generation” to use “The Hut” as “common vernacular for our brand”. True story. Pizza Hut had to release a press statement after public uproar to assure everyone that no, they weren’t actually going to change their brand name. The public has traditionally tended to resist rebrands — even the most beautiful, considered rebrand out there will probably encounter resistance, resistance that will fade over time once everyone finds something else to complain about. Take Google for example. Its recent rebrand into a beautiful chunky serif, designed for the age of the mobile phone, was met with the usual critics. Few days later it stopped being an issue. If you believe in the rebrand, which is supported by a reason for being and a great idea, just hunker down and wait. If it wasn’t… well. An embarrassing backtrack might be on the books.

Avoiding Mea Culpas — An Incomplete List:

  • Do the Research: Dinky as you might think research is, it’s hugely important in a rebranding effort. We handle this for our clients as part of our process, providing in-depth reports and analysis along the way to help them better understand their brand and how it’s perceived in the marketplace.
  • Have a Strategy: Consult with a relevant agency and come up with a strategy with agreed-on goals.
  • Have a Reason: Rebrands are an expensive process if done properly. Don’t just have a reason to go through with it — one that you believe in — there has to be an idea behind the rebrand.
  • Get Help: If you’ve got trained experts in-house who can handle a rebrand like Google, go ahead. If you don’t have people in your company with the skills and expertise to handle a rebrand, or if you think you need specialist attention, get an agency.
  • Understand that Good Work Takes Time (And You Get What You Pay For): Branding is like surgery, construction work, and a life coach for your company all at once. If you get it done cheap, it’s most probably not done right. And no, it’s not OK to exploit some random art students through the gig economy.

Want to get the complete list? Come grab a coffee with us.

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