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IHOP or IHOB: Does brand name change really pay off?

Last week, the multi-national family restaurant chain, IHOP, made a big announcement — changing its name from IHOP to IHOB. The chain, famous for pancakes and a wide variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items, and officially known as the ‘International House of Pancakes’ didn’t then reveal what the “B” stood for.

Yesterday, however, in a tweet, it said, “Our NEW burgers are so burgerin’ good, we changed our name to IHOb. For burgers. Go ahead, burger one today.”

This is, however, not a permanent name change for the brand.

“This was tied specifically to a marketing campaign to launch our burger line-up and is not a permanent name change for the brand,” a spokesperson told AMEInfo on email.

While renaming a brand is not an unusual practice, the big question is: Is renaming a brand a smart move or waste of money? Is changing the brand name the best option for rebrand? Can brands evolve while minimizing the risks?


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Before IHOP, a number of brands changed their names. Danone’s Bio changed to Activia; France Télécom became Orange; and Champion changed its name to Carrefour Market.

Back in 2012, US food & snacks giant, Kraft Foods, owner of the famous chocolate maker Cadbury, decided to name its new global snacks business Mondelez.

Instagram is another example. When 400 million active users’ take selfie’s, Instagram took steps towards rebranding, they began by identifying the story they wanted to tell through the photo-sharing application’s logo.

Ian Spalter, Head of Design for Instagram, described the new rebrand as a move towards demonstrating the story of their vibrant and diverse community. The redesigned look replaces the original retro-looking camera with a lively, warm gradient and simplified camera outline. The look was extended to Instagram’s sister apps— Boomerang, Hyperlapse, and Layout – as well.

Transforming trust to consumers

So does the exercise of building a compelling brand identity is to keep oneself relevant to the consumer in order to maintain long-term success?

“The reasons behind name changes are numerous, from the purchase of companies or brands, to changes in legislation to economies of scale to market globalization. While there are gains to be made, companies also have a lot to lose,” Professor Véronique Pauwels-Delassus of IESEG School of Management, writes in an article “Changing brands without losing customers”.


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Adds Sajith Ansar, the Founder & CEO of Idea Spice, “Rebranding is an extension of the same idea in which, as part of a marketing strategy even the most successful of companies consider if their efforts are to remain competitive.”

Pepsi, he adds, has had one of the most recognizable brands over its 120 years of existence. From a vintage typography form to minimalist drink –like logo design to finally the current one that gives the impression of a smile – the brand, while maintaining its core elements, has evolved to suit the preference of its target ‘young’ consumers.

The brand has undergone changes in their efforts of progressing, with mass preference guided by technological advances.


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“A brand change is never neutral. It inevitably weakens the consumer relationship, at least temporarily. It is a long, risky and expensive process, and it requires substantial investment in communication,” says Professor Pauwels-Delassus.

It is important, therefore, to examine the overall impact of the name change carefully before embarking on the adventure.

So next time when you, as a marketer or a brand owner consider rebranding, always ask yourself a question: will this plan benefit the company for long term?