As the IHOP’s name change PR stunt was unfolding in June, I was fascinated at how they were securing multiple articles and social media posts from every major media outlet.  As it became apparent that they were not really changing their name to International House of Burgers, many of your go-to marketing “gurus” were calling the stunt a huge fail.

I was on the other side thinking that with all the free media and viral social conversations generated that it had a great shot at actually increasing sales. One of the biggest tells of the enormous success of the stunt were competitors trying to ride the PR wave with tactics like Burger King changing their Social Media branding to Pancake King.

When Burger King Changed To Pancake King

As an 8-year social media marketer who has seen major brands screw up many social media campaigns, I wanted to see first hand how well IHOP integrated in-store execution with the PR Stunt.  When I went to the IHOP immediately after it was revealed that the ‘B’ in IHob was for burgers, I was impressed by the employee knowledge of the campaign and the premium burgers being served up. I recapped the experience here.

#IHOb Campaign Official Results

In my initial recap, I said it all the media hits and viral reach means nothing — and what marketing experts say means nothing.  Increased sales is all that really matters and as part of a publically owned company, I said in less than a quarter we would know how well IHOP’s PR/Social Media stunt really performed.

In IHOP’s parent company recent quarterly earnings call, they reported that they’ve seen a 4x increase in burger sales following the #IHob Campaign.

IHOP sells 8 million burgers per year… so to get it a 4x lift is significant.  It is even a bigger deal when you consider how little money they had to spend in order to raise awareness about their burgers thanks to the virality of their fake name change stunt.

They also reported that the stunt generated 20,000 news articles resulting in 36 billion social media impressions. They also claimed that they reached 4 Billion people.

All the marketing experts who were ready to call this the biggest marketing fail since NEW COKE was proven to be wrong. I’m excited that a national brand who took this magnitude of a risk to slice through the daily noise and was rewarded with a big win. Congrats to the team at IHOP!

Vanity Metrics vs. Revenue Metrics

IHOP’s reporting did hit on a pet peeve of mine: Vanity Metrics vs. Metrics That Matter

Yes, the #IHob campaign was a media hit unlike any we’ve ever seen before.  As I shared in the first article, IHOP held 3 of the top 6 trending topics on Twitter on the day of the big reveal.

#ihob trending on Twitter

Trending Topics During #IHOb Stunt

There is no doubt that it was a huge PR hit which drove to a 4x increase in burger sales.  But, I feel the vanity metrics of 36 billion impressions and 4 billion people reached are really inflated.

To put the numbers in perspective, there are 4 Billion Monthly Users of the internet and 7.442 Billion people on the planet.  They are claiming that this campaign reached every single user on the internet…an average of 9x each?

I have a hard time believing these numbers. A typical problem with vanity metrics like impressions, reach, video views, etc. is that they are regularly inflated.

There is no way to prove it and the way they are calculated is typically suspect. One example of how impressions are calculated is that they will say 100 Twitter Users with 1000 Twitter followers each shared it, so that is 100,000 impressions. But not all followers of those Twitter accounts would see the tweet.

As a performance digital marketer, almost all I care about is leads and sales. Measuring the success of IHOP’s PR/Social Media Home Run really came down to one number: 4x increase in burger sales.

The 4x increase in burger sales is something that can be proved. Why report it alongside such inflated numbers that are really not important? They could have just said 4x in burgers sales and over 20,000 media hits (which should be provable).

The Vanity Metrics issue is just a pet peeve of mine… In no way am I arguing with the overall success of the IHOP #IHob campaign. 4x Burger Sales thanks to off the charts earned media is something many other brands will try to match.

I’m sure that Social Media & PR teams across the country are now formulating their own version of #IHob. It is a dangerous game with a fine line between success and failure — I’m excited to see which brand decides to play the game next.

#ihob campaign Tshirt



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