Denny’s Does Digital

By this point, it comes as no surprise that a brand with a strong social media persona that verges on the weird will be an object of my affection. And this week is no different, because I’m talking about Denny’s.

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Around since the 1960s, Denny’s has been slinging breakfast 24/7 for quite some time. Whether it be a senior grabbing coffee in the morning, a family at dinner, or some buddies needing some grub after the bar, Denny’s has always been one of those places you’re not sure you want to go to, but you end up at anyway.

Offering meal deals and a diner setting, Denny’s has a fairly loyal customer base that personifies their “traditional” target of families and seniors. But they also have a sect of younger clientele that range roughly from high school age to mid-30s. While these two groups share the common thread of “going to Denny’s,” they often have very different reasons of doing so. Denny’s has recognized this divide and successfully uses their digital presence to target these consumers in very different ways.

“If you look at the content across all of our social media platforms, you’ll see that the strategy is to serve as an online extension of what you would expect to experience in our restaurants: a welcoming, comfortable place where family, friends and complete strangers can all come together and have fun conversations…Our social media channels really are an online extension of the Denny’s booth.”
-Denny’s CMO John Dillon, on the success of the Denny’s social media presence.

The Traditional Customer

Denny’s traditional customer is looking to have a more traditional relationship with the restaurant, and Denny’s delivers on that expectation with their website, Facebook account, and often their Instagram.

These accounts are frequently family friendly and are much more food and menu focused. They also feature focuses on their Scholarship and Diversity programs and highlight their loyalty program. On their Instagram, post are often regrams of meals enjoyed at the restaurant. All told, it is an effective strategy in maintaining this sect of customer that is satisfied by a restaurant focusing on what they do best: food.

The “Other” Customer

In targeting this “other,”–i.e. younger, Millennial–customer, Denny’s opted to get a little….weird. Seemingly inspired by the “Weird Twitter” phenomenon, Denny’s is pulling some similar moves previously seen in the Totino’s playbook.

It’s definitely absurd, but also self aware, as shown in the wide variety of their Tumblr posts, Tweets, and occasionally Instagram.

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These are not the kind of posts that will appeal to their traditional consumer, but they are the exact kind of content that captivates their “other” customer, and Denny’s has been rewarded with endless retweets, reblogs, and direct contact with their patrons. This new content feels original and fresh, and for the output that is based on established memes, it shows these younger Denny’s customers that the restaurant is on their level.

If you find this unbelievable, you shouldn’t. Why? Just two weeks ago Denny’s tweeted the following post that is now one of the most shared and liked items in the history of Twitter’s branded content.

By targeting their two main customer personas in specialized ways, Denny’s is able to keep its pulse on the wants and needs of their clientele. For some, such a move could be risky and fraught with fear of alienating loyalists. But in the world of diner food, it was a risk worth taking and it is definitely paying off.

 Stay weird, Denny’s. Stay weird.

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“It wasn’t until years later that Melissa had realized she’d been trying to eat a single string of spaghetti from a never-ending spaghetti plate for so long that she was now traveling through space and time at an exponentially faster speed, never to see her family again, never to finish her meal. Sad.”
-Denny’s Tumblr

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