Was the Flip a Flop?

By Jenna Barone

IHOP re-focused its marketing efforts from flipping pancakes to flipping burgers in hopes of earning a seat at the lunch and dinner table. In early June, IHOP announced its temporary name change to IHOb without revealing the altered acronym’s new meaning. A creative marketing stunt, the flipped P now reads as a lowercase b. A week later, social media erupted in chaos following the release of the mystery meaning. You guessed it—the B stands for burgers.

Corporate food chains responded to the name change with snarky, condescending remarks on social media. Whataburger, Chilis, Wendy’s, etc. ganged up on IHOP with an attitude of burger superiority, treating IHOP like a wannabe.

The IHOB phenomenon provided an excellent opportunity for corporate chain restaurants to partake in a bit of newsjacking. As a result, IHOP benefited from the conversation and awareness increased. But will the restaurant chain benefit from the letter flip, or was the marketing campaign a flop?

The engagement between chains added to the hype and excitement surrounding IHOB, a clear plus in terms of achieving awareness. But the attitudes present in chain restaurant reactions dented IHOP’s credibility despite its attempt to make witty comebacks.

Not to mention, IHOP’s response is a bit unoriginal. Anyone remember the fun, harmless banter between Pharrell Williams and Arby’s after the 2014 Grammys?

IHOP made a bold move in an effort earn respect as a restaurant serving more than just breakfast—and I respect its willingness to take on the risk. However, the social media attacks granted no favors in terms of changing the public’s perspective.

After the big reveal, RLF tweeted an article about the name change: “We can support #IHOB as long as @IHOB promises to keep serving pancakes.” As it turns out, many responded similarly with tweets about the name-change sparking pancake cravings among loyal customers. Though always meant as a joke, many also took the name change seriously and panicked about the potential loss of pancakes. So much so, that IHOP’s President Darren Rebelez made a statement to assure customers that the delicious buttermilk pancakes aren’t going anywhere.

In an attempt to spin the pancake reactions, IHOP’s tweets compared the seriousness of its burgers to the seriousness of its pancakes, even joking about its quest to “corner the market on circle foods.” But will pancake fanatics accept the new burgers at lunch and dinner with open arms? Will new customers be attracted to IHOP because of the new burger options?

As far as feedback on the actual taste of the burgers, I’ve encountered mixed reviews. A group of Orlando Sentinel reporters visited a nearby IHOP a couple weeks ago to decide for themselves. Though satisfied with the seven new steak burger options (classic cheeseburger, bacon burger, double-pattied monster burger, breakfast burger, barbecue burger, spicy burger, mushroom and swiss burger), they weren’t exactly pleased with the look or taste:

“Strip off the toppings, and you’re left with a lackluster, bland patty more suitable for a fast food spot not a sit-down restaurant. The thin patty never had a chance to remain the medium-temperature I requested, making the server’s earlier question pointless.”

On the other hand, IHOP has tweeted positive reviews and re-tweeted positive customer responses to the new burger lineup in the last couple of weeks.

IHOP says it’s happy with the early results of the campaign. Its Word of Mouth Score (a measurement of the number of people who talk about the restaurant chain with others) jumped from 11 percent to 30 percent within a week of the name-change announcement.

Though burger sales have increased, will a one-time curiosity translate to consistent burger-buyers? YouGov, a data polling firm, reported that recent rebranding efforts have not significantly increased the likelihood of consumers dining at IHOP according to its BrandIndex.

The buzz over IHOB came and went rather quickly, and it doesn’t look like IHOP will successfully sustain the momentum. I wouldn’t call the campaign a total flop, but it seems like the pancake (or burger) may have burned a little after the flip.


What’s All the Buzz About Personal Branding?

By Taylor Lord
Ever called a tissue a Kleenex? Or asked a friend to borrow Chap Stick? Brands have infiltrated every aspect of normal life and each one of us is guilty of referring to an object by a trademarked brand name. In a culture that is branded to a T, it’s not surprising that the idea of creating unique and distinctive labels for individuals is a topic that seems to come up constantly.
From seasoned industry professionals to untried college students, people are concerned with their personal brand and how they can stand out from the crowd. Even if you say that you don’t have a personal brand because you don’t post three to five times a day on Twitter, guess what? That reluctance to be active on social media is an integral part of how people perceive you, and thus part of your brand.
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2016 Super Bowl Ads – Part 2: Cute and Fuzzy Wins Us Over

Super Bowl ads are known for playing up our emotions, especially the ones that feature adorable animals. A few brands made the strategic move to include animals in their commercials, and in turn, made us say “awww.” Below are comments from RLF employees who couldn’t resist the cuteness in this year’s ads.
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2016 Super Bowl Ads – Part 1: Celebrities and Pop Culture References Prevail

This year’s Super Bowl game might not have been all that memorable, but the ads are definitely worth talking about. Many commercials made us laugh, some commercials stirred our emotions, and other commercials left us scratching our heads (puppymonkeybaby??). Among this diverse list of TV spots, a common ad strategy emerged: the use of celebrities and pop culture references. Several brands incorporated famous personalities or funny memes into their ad’s message, effectively capturing the viewer’s attention and leaving a lasting impression of the product. Continue reading to find out which RLF staff members identified their favorite ads in this category.
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Major (key emoji) for Brands: Staying Relevant

By Kat Pallotta
Over the past few weeks, you may have seen people use “Major (key emoji) to success” in an Instagram caption, Snapchat, Facebook post or tweet. This phrase refers to the popular Snapchat account of hip-hop producer DJ Khaled. More than 2 million people a day watch Khaled’s Snapchat stories that feature what he believes are major keys to success.
Leading brands such as MasterCard and Uber have participated in the DJ Khaled phenomenon by tweeting his trademark phrase in relation to their services. “Major (key emoji) Alert: If you need ID Theft alerts, we’ve got you covered (credit card emoji) #blessup,” tweeted MasterCard. The White House, which recently joined Snapchat, also used the phrase in its “My Story” the day before the State of the Union address, stating: “Major (key emoji): Get some rest before the big day.”
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How Companies Have Leveraged User-Generated Content in Marketing Campaigns

By Heather Ebert
The evolution of social media has led to a change in the consumer brand experience. No longer do people wait to tell friends about their latest favorite brand or product in person; instead, they share images and posts about their indulgences instantly on social media. This change in brand advocacy has resulted in a stockpile of user-generated content that brands can easily use in their own marketing efforts.
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Comedians and Advertising: Rebranding with Laughter

Amy_Poehler_2011_Shankbone_2By Rebecca Phillips
Let’s be honest – there are some brands that have been around for so long that their advertising just gets a little stale. Not only that, but some brands are simply overshadowed by industry-dominating competitors. While many brands turn to celebrities to endorse their products, consumers often see right through these endorsements. In order to set themselves apart from the many celebrity endorsements out there, some brands have turned to comedians to spice up their advertising.
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Using YouTube to Elevate Your Brand

By Amanda GarrityYoutubelogo1
If you check the Internet on a Millennial’s computer, it is likely that YouTube is bookmarked. If not, it will certainly be one of their most-visited websites. YouTube provides endless hours of entertainment to Millennials, creating prime advertising opportunities to reach this key demographic.
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Public Relations Lessons From Celebrities That Apply to Not-So-Celebrity Clients

By Heather Ebert

Recently, singer Taylor Swift penned an open letter to Apple via her Tumblr page expressing dissatisfaction with Apple Music’s policy to not pay artists for music streamed during the service’s free three-month trial period. She stated that because of this policy she would not release her album “1989” on the platform. Apple quickly reversed its policy and pledged to pay artists during the trial period, which began June 30.

The intensity and reach of the public eye often requires that celebrities like Swift be very transparent and responsive with the media and their fans, especially when news stories or scandals break. There are many celebrities that handle such events almost seamlessly, but there are others whose actions make the situation worse. There are lessons to be learned from both. Here are the top three PR do’s and don’ts that we can take from celebrities.

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