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UMD professors pan IHOP’s name change to IHOb

IHOP, which teased a name change to IHOb earlier this month, says the “b” is to promote its burger menu and is staying "for the time being." (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

IHOP, which teased a name change to IHOb earlier this month, says the “b” is to promote its burger menu and is staying “for the time being.” (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

IHOP drew the ire of the internet this week when it announced it was, temporarily at least, changing its name to IHOb – International House of Burgers.

Many thought the “b” would stand for breakfast, an acknowledgement of the chain’s offerings beyond the eponymous pancakes.

When IHOP (IHOb?) announced the “b” stood for burgers, the internet laughed.

But in a press release, a group of marketing professors at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of business have some suggestions for what that “b” could really stand for and how the name change, however temporary, could hurt another “b” – the chain’s brand.

Henry C. Boyd III, a clinical professor of marketing, said the move would dilute the company’s brand.

“It’s folly to make an abrupt change to the brand name (even on a temporary basis),” he said. “It takes years for the public to amass the desired associations in memory that a firm projects toward the marketplace (e.g., IHOP means scrumptious pancakes served with strawberries, blueberries or chocolate chips).”

“In my view, by taking on this radical approach, IHOP risks diluting its brand essence,” Boyd continued. “Interestingly, in the wake of this campaign, IHOb has left itself wide open for ridicule and corporate mockery. Just check out some of the latest jeers in the Twittersphere.”

Mary B. Harms, a clinical associate professor in marketing, said the “b” could stand for backlash as IHOb enters a crowded marketplace for gourmet burgers.

“By capitalizing on social influencers they have been able to reach more individuals and stretch their promotional dollars,” she said. “But in orchestrating this PR event for their new menu items, they have also raised expectations for their upscale burgers in the minds of potential customers.”

“The gourmet hamburger field is quickly becoming crowded and if the quality is not there, this new menu promotion could be detrimental to IHOP. With the interest in healthy eating and, consequently, pancake sales flattening, it’s understandable why they are diversifying into the red-hot gourmet hamburger menu offering,” she continued. “It will allow them to capture family and group sales when not everyone wants pancakes for lunch. However, often when companies venture into new product offerings, they are not always successful, especially when the initial product offering has been so engrained into the hearts and minds of consumers as IHOP’s has been. “

Professor Jie Zhang said the “b” could stand for bemusing.

“People were surprised to find out what ‘B’ stands for,” he said. “The fact that IHOP sells burgers seems rather bemusing. In some sense, the publicity stunt is certainly working in spreading the buzz. Nonetheless, the word-of-mouth so far appears to be fairly negative. It is an open question whether people would go to IHOP for burgers after they have learned about the offering.”

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