Creating a new brand after a bold acquisition

When IHOP Corporation acquired Applebee’s in November 2007, the company faced a significant challenge. At the time, IHOP planned to use its core expertise in brand revitalization and franchising to revive the well known, but struggling, Applebee’s system. But it wouldn’t be easy. With nearly 2,000 locations, Applebee’s was considerably larger than IHOP, with a distinctly different internal culture, and headquarters located several states away.

The acquisition was a bold move, and the subsequent integration required discipline and sacrifice. Leadership decided to form a single, corporate parent entity that would oversee the management of both the Applebee’s and IHOP brands. In order for the newly unified company to move ahead, they needed to establish a common vision, bridge the gaps between disparate cultures, and invigorate morale.

It was time for a fresh start as a new company. And that company needed a name.


Savvy plus moxie equals equity

IHOP drew upon our longstanding relationship as a strategic communications partner, charging us to create a name and corporate identity that would forge meaningful connections with investors, franchisees, team members and guests. The name we developed — DineEquity — communicates the company’s core strength in building iconic brands, creating financial value in the restaurant category, and creating outstanding guest experiences.

We supported the new name with an identity and tagline — “Great franchisees. Great brands.”— which succinctly telegraphed what lived at the heart of the DineEquity brand. We then developed a brand launch communications platform and website that reinforced the company’s status as a world-class franchisor and dynamic industry leader. The new parent company was open for business.



Impact beyond the ordinary

What makes DineEquity different? As they achieved each of the aggressive goals they’d set following the acquisition, DineEquity established a reputation for delivering on promises, building strong, category-leading restaurant brands, and creating value for shareholders. But could they do more? Brand awareness was high for Applebee’s and IHOP, but relatively low for DineEquity. After perceiving this opportunity, we helped them realize the benefits of crafting a stronger corporate story for important stakeholders — including team members, franchisees, guests, vendor partners, and communities.


Capitalizing on opportunities with a strong corporate brand

Our discovery revealed a clear common theme — the extraordinary sense of impact each individual felt he or she could make. DineEquity team members described the ways in which they felt their efforts were magnified, to create positive impacts for others. This came through in our discussions with team members ranging from CEO Julia Stewart to middle management and beyond, and formed the basis for our core promise: “Impact beyond the ordinary.”

This promise became the lynchpin for a brand platform that defined how the company collaborates to innovate, what it delivers, core values, and brand personality attributes. Together, these elements created a foundation for a distinctive, compelling and relevant corporate brand.

Becoming an employer of choice

When we created the corporate brand for DineEquity, senior leadership expressed a desire to become an Employer of Choice, to attract and retain top talent. To help them make that goal a reality, we crafted an employer brand, articulating the EVP promise that in our culture, your contributions can make a difference, your voice will be heard. Our rallying cry was a personal challenge for every team member to ‘Go for great.’


DineEquity website

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