2018 - Year of the Corporate Logo PR Stunt

For nearly a full week, the venerable International House of Pancakes – IHOP – racked up extraordinary PR points with its stunt to supposedly "change their name" to IHOb. First announced as a teaser on June 5 via Twitter, the company promised to reveal the mystery seven days later, thus holding the entire country – perhaps even the entire international community – in suspense, with plenty of time to ponder and prognosticate and produce memes.

In a fairly disappointing and anticlimactic reveal on Monday, it turns out the "b" stands for... "burgers."

Oh.

Cue more social media outrage.

What's most outrageous is just how many thousands of people seem to still think it's literally a permanent name change, missing the joke completely and ranting about what a stupid decision that is. In the process, many of them becoming consciously aware and talking about the International House of Pancakes for the first time in years, if ever. Mission accomplished.

Even the most unaware consumer understands the sacredness of a corporate logo and the hundreds of millions spent in designing, building recognition, fighting trademark infringements tooth & nail, etcetera. Which is exactly why these stunts work, by shaking up consumers' mental status quo and calling extra attention to the thing no longer there. It's a great PR strategy – tailor-made for social media, easy to grasp and inexpensive to execute especially since most of the logo changes are in only pixels and don't exist IRL.

In case you've forgotten some of the other corporate logo switcheroos that have happened this year, let's recall some of the better ones:

McDonald's
McDonald's dominated the spotlight this year with their International Women's Day stunt of flipping the golden arches from an "M" into a "W" (you know, for women). A single physical restaurant sign, in Lynwood, CA, was literally flipped, and McDonald's announced that in addition to changing the logo across their social media channels that 100 restaurants would have special "packaging, crew shirts and hats and bag stuffers." But they probably didn't need to go that far – pics of that Lynwood McD's sign circulated around the globe and served their purpose. (It's worth noting that MTV did the same thing for 2017's International Women's Day)

KFC
This stunt was only pulled by KFC Malaysia, but it's so good it should have been worldwide (don't be surprised if it gets repeated more broadly next year). Across all social media channels the familiar image of Colonel Sanders was replaced with Mrs. Colonel Sanders, the real-life Claudia Sanders, in recognition of International Women's Day. She met the Colonel in 1930, working as a waitress in his first restaurant, and they were married in 1948. Without her hard work mixing the herbs & spices and shipping them to the burgeoning franchise businesses, KFC would likely not exist today.

Johnny Walker
The top-hatted and confidently striding Johnny has been walking across bottles of blended scotch whisky since 1908. For 2018's International Women's Day, he was turned into "Jane Walker". As the company's press release explained, "As a brand that has stood for progress for nearly 200 years, Johnnie Walker is proud to take this next step forward by introducing Jane Walker as another symbol of the brand's commitment to progress."

Brawny
The familiar flannel-wearing lumberjack on Brawny paper towels was first changed to a lady in 2017, and this year Brawny continued its apparently now-annual tradition of revising its packaging in March (Women's History Month), complete with the hashtagline, #StrengthHasNoGender.

Lacoste
Iconic preppy fashion brand Lacoste switched their familiar alligator logo to one of ten different endangered species such as the Sumatran Tiger, the Burmese Roofed Turtle and the California Condor. The limited-edition polo shirts are in fact extremely limited, with each quantity produced matching the number of animals left in the wild, i.e., there are only 30 shirts with the Gulf of California Porpoise. The campaign is the launch of a partnership between Lacoste and the International Union for Conservation of Nature with sales going to the non-profit. Shockingly, the logo switch didn't coincide with International Women's Day, but was announced a whole week before, at Paris Fashion Week.

* * *

We're halfway through 2018 and the most predictable events are these: there will be an Autumnal Equinox, there will be a Winter Solstice, and there will be more major brands "changing their logos." You might say it's pointless, you might say it's dumb, but you have to admit, you're now well aware that IHOP has added burgers to the menu for the first time.

In fact, they've been there since the first restaurant opened in 1958. Mission way accomplished.

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