Family – America’s Diner
Warning: I’m about to stereotype.
I’ve eaten at a Denny’s once in my life in some small town in Pennsylvania about seven years ago. The experience was weird. Our server was about 60 years old and had a beehive up do, dyed bright red. There was a sad 17-year-old bus boy hunched over while sweeping up straw wrappers from the carpeted floor. An elderly couple was in a booth eating their dinner at 4pm. A mom and her four unruly children were across the restaurant, but loud enough for everyone to hear about Timmy not eating his toast. And I’m probably happy I did not look at the Department of Health rating when I walked in. The Grand Slam was good, but not enough to bring me back to Denny’s again.
However, I’m tempted to try it again thanks to their content marketing approach. The most adequate description I can give is that they’re showing their crazy card -making a mockery of it – and it is working. Chief Brand Officer Frances Allen said Denny’s has had continual sales growth for the past three years (Source: That Diner Feeling: How Denny’s Became a Weirdly Successful Content Marketer.)
Take a look at the Denny’s blog, which is more of a collection of all their social media content than detailed posts. One of the first thing’s you read is “Stalk Us Online.” They’ve created a space to “lean in” to their weird and put it on display. It’s weird, yet intriguing:
- Moonlighting as secret agents
- #flaphacks to use pancakes as a table stabilizer and how to store them for a snack
- The snacktus
- The Nannerpuss character storyline and adventures
- A party in your belly
Embracing a brand image alone isn’t enough to garner attention and sales. In this scenario, it seems that Denny’s is focusing on the young adult crowd to become a late-night, after-party spot. So what has Denny’s done to create a successful content marketing strategy for this?
There’s a space on the blog for customers to ask questions and submit their own content. Not only does Denny’s respond, they share the questions publicly and continue with their brand voice. They also do a good job of retweeting and responding to Twitter and Facebook posts. From a customer who went to a Denny’s in a sunny side up egg costume to hundreds of customer “Fan Food Pics,” Denny’s has a brand people are engaging with and following loyally.
Giving carte blanche to comedians is without a doubt risky. But Denny’s partnered with a few comedians to create Always Open, a video series posted on College Humor’s YouTube channel in which host David Koechner sits in Denny’s and has conversations with other comedians such as Will Forte, Amy Poehler, Dax Shepard and more.
Denny’s isn’t exactly known for attracting young adults, but this series took the risk of playing to that target audience’s interests. The comedians are popular with a younger audience and the interviews aren’t snarky or gossip, they’re funny. Albeit awkwardly funny, but that’s a tone that resonates with college students nationwide. The series averages about 200,000 views per video.
Another partnership that capitalizes on the out-of-date Denny’s brand is with Atari. The two created a series of mobile games that combines the two brands for the games Hashteroids, Centipup and Take-Out. While inspired by the Greatest Hits Remixed menu at Denny’s, the games feature diner elements such as flying hash browns and syrup bottle shooters and bring back the classic arcade games.
This fits in with the retro – dare I say hipster – cultural swing of young adults. At the moment, nostalgic games are cool. This partnership occurred quickly, and has had such an impact that Denny’s is making changes to their traditional restaurant to include retro décor.
While the Denny’s atmosphere may not be for everyone, you have to admire a company that embraces their brand identity and capitalizes on it instead of trying to become something they’re not. Kudos Denny’s.