Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

More than just flipping pancakes: This restaurant chain flipped a single letter and shocked the whole world! [Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

September 3, 2020

When you think of pancakes, what picture comes to mind?

Do you see…

…a full stack of the classic buttermilk pancakes?

…blueberry pancakes with whipped cream on top?

…chocolate chip pancakes with ice cream topping?

This restaurant can satisfy all your pancake cravings and now they have stepped up their game!

For 60 years, the International House of Pancakes or IHOP has secured its place in people’s hearts as a great breakfast restaurant in America.

Although IHOP offers lunch and dinner as well, its branding has been all about three things:



…and pancakes!

In order to refuel business growth amidst the shrinking family-dining category, IHOP decided to serve beyond its famous pancakes for breakfast and revamp its offerings to include one of America’s beloved food: Burgers.

How did IHOP show its consumers that it takes its burgers as seriously as its pancakes?

The fake name change campaign!

On June 4, 2018, IHOP partnered with advertising company Droga5 to move forward with this outrage marketing campaign.

[Outrage Marketing Campaign: A type of viral marketing campaign that creates brand awareness by deliberately sparking a reaction of shock, anger, or indignation from the public. Advertisements of this type spread across the internet, usually through people sharing the content on their social media accounts.]

Their strategy?

Flip the “P” in IHOP and take America by surprise!

IHOP went all in, changing its name to IHOb on its Twitter handle and all its stores.

The restaurant chain played a guessing game across America by posting a cryptic video on all its social media accounts, featuring only the IHOP to IHOb logo flip, an announcement date no one knows what for, and the hashtag #IHOb.

The move has caused speculations to flood the Internet, with various media outlets such as Forbes, VICE on TV, National Public Radio, and the Today Show reporting on IHOP’s rebrand.

IHOP further fueled the fire by giving hints as to what the “b” stands for.

On June 11, 2018, America finally had the reveal it was waiting for!

In a live announcement on an on-air segment of “Fox & Friends,” IHOP declared that the controversial “b” stood for burgers.

The brand even took things further by flipping all the IHOP Ps into Bs in all its online assets—its social media channels, website, SEO, Wikipedia page, and even its employees’ LinkedIn bios!

After IHOP’s big reveal, celebrities and other famous personalities like Chrissy Teigen, Questlove, Cardi B., Diplo, and Cookie Monster joined in on the fun by commenting on IHOP’s marketing stunt.

Competitor burger brands like Burger King, A&W Restaurants, and White Castle also made a spoof of IHOP’s rebrand by changing their own names.

Since everyone was talking about it, IHOP’s next goal was to get people to eat their burgers.

IHOP hosted a “VIb” (VIP – another gimmick to also flip the “P” into a “b”) launch event where influencers and the press can try its burgers.

They also set up an IHOb Burger Booth where other guests can taste the burgers for the first time.

A camera was installed at the booth for documentation purposes.


In its first 10 days, the IHOP to IHOb campaign accumulated over 1.2 million tweets about it and was covered by almost every media publication, generating over 28,000 news articles and broadcast segments.

IHOP also garnered 42.5 billion media impressions with an earned media value of over USD 113 million.

IHOP’s Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley confirmed that after the campaign, the restaurant chain has been selling four times more burgers and that at the peak of the campaign, 500,000 burgers were sold every week.

Dine Brands, IHOP’s parent company, also reported that IHOP’s store sales grew by 1.2% in its third quarter and its stock price also increased by 17%, from USD 65.32 to USD 76.82.


  • AdAge awarded IHOP’s advertising agency, Droga5, a Creativity Award for the success of the outrage marketing campaign.
  • IHOP was awarded the Grand Ogilvy for “Most Outstanding Campaign” and received Gold in the “Best Brand Transformation” category, as well as Silver in the “Retail and Restaurants” category.

What IHOP did was a high-risk, high-reward marketing tactic. Not all brands or businesses succeed in creating a buzz as big as that.

IHOP’s fake name change worked so well because it wasn’t exposing the company to any social, political, or cultural debate; it focused on the shock factor, and it was linked to IHOP’s business goal.

A bit of a surprise is not that bad!

Are you also in for some outrage marketing for your brand?

Get inspired with IHOP’s guerrilla marketing campaign!

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Fridays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing is inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Friday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Friday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
Powered by Valens Research

This content is used with permission from The I Institute and The Business Builder Daily.

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