This original version of this post on June 12, 2018 has been edited to reflect the importance of trust in building fandom.
Social media exploded with the news, released June 4, 2018, that IHOP (International House of Pancakes) was to change their name to “IHOb.” A week later, they announced they weren't really changing their name.
They were lying. It was just a marketing ploy. Ugh.
Trust is vital to connecting with customers. Once that trust has been broken, it is hard to win back — just ask Wells Fargo and PayPal.
Many mainstream media outlets published stories as if the impending name change were true including The Washington Post, Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Yahoo, and several local ABC and CBS network affiliated televisions stations.
Some people tried to guess what “IHOb” could mean. Many guessed “International House of Bacon” and “International House of Breakfast”. Others got cute, suggesting weird things like “International House of Bjork” and “International House of Bitcoin”. Chiquita tweeted “International House of Bananas” and the musician Brian Eno tweeted “International House of Brian Eno”.
Then, on June 11, IHOb, er… IHOP let the world know the answer. “Just kidding!”
They weren't really changing their name. It was simply a way to get social media talking about the fact that you can go to IHOP for more than just breakfast and, oh yeah, now we have burgers too.
Lying Hurts Your Fandom
Is lying in public is so widespread in America in 2018 that marketers feel compelled to use it as a ploy to get attention?
And don’t even get me started about politicians! It seems that nobody believes what our leaders say. It’s like theater. When they run for election, they make promises that voters know they won’t keep. And when they get to office they say anything they want.
Here are other statements that I frequently see that I simply don’t believe anymore.
Your call is important to us.
Due to higher than expected call volume, your wait time is longer than normal.
We love our customers.
This is the best price I can offer.
Sure, this IHOb thing was just a marketing stunt. You might say "Lighten up, David. It was funny." Yes, it certainly got attention.
But the idea of messing with the truth when communicating with the fans of your company and its products isn’t good marketing. It’s deception.
Of course, the burger chains got in some clever newsjacking. Burger King even changed their name on social media to Pancake King.
It seems to me that they’re all laughing at IHOb, not with IHOP.
Remember when you were like 7 and thought changing your name to Thunder BearSword would be super cool? Like that, but our cheeseburgers are still better.
Marketing stunts may grab attention in the short-term, but lying to your customers is a sure way to hurt your credibility and lose trust from would-be fans.
Instead of deceiving customers, you should forge personal relationships built on genuine human connection to grow a passionate and excited fanbase. If you want to learn how to grow fandom around your business, check out my new book, Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans, which comes out on January 7, 2020.