by Olivia Usitalo

In 2011, Denny’s started noticing a decline in sales among its main targeted consumer: the Baby Boomers and mature generations. Instead of trying to further engage and fight back for this group, Denny’s launched a campaign aimed towards the Millennial generation. By using a humorous and quirky approach that represented Denny’s brand personality, Denny’s managed to successfully gain not only a new base of customers, but became one of the most popular social media icons among Millennial followers of today.

The campaign, titled “Always Open”, followed a theme commonly found in the Millennial culture: open-mindedness. Whether in humor, intellectual conversation, or pop culture, Millennials are engaged by more liberal, positive tones rather than the orderly and opinionated. Denny’s, sharing this same value of openness, created a web-series with David Koechner, a comedian who starred in the Millennial favorite movie “Anchorman”, and had him sit down at an actual Denny’s restaurant and have an open conversation with fellow popular comedians like Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Bell. The unscripted conversations that followed revealed stories, hilarious dialogue and fun facts about the celebrities that fans may not have known before. In order to spread knowledge of the series, Denny’s depended on the participating celebrities to spread the word about an episode once it was posted through their personal accounts (which were seen by thousands, if not millions, of followers). Denny’s also partnered with the popular Youtube channel and website College Humor, whose main audience is college students. With its own page and specific URL with College Humor, the web-series and its campaign could be practically served on a platter (pun intended) to Millennial consumers.

Watch Dave Koechner share an omelet with Chris Pratt here.

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According to WARC, Denny’s “Always Open” campaign gained more than 6 million views and 100 million PR impressions within the two months of the web-series’s run, with an overall sales increase of 1.3%. In regards to longevity, the campaign jump-started Denny’s presence as an online icon. It’s eccentric and open tone resonates so much with Millennial consumers, that it’s become more than a successful dining establishment- it’s created its own personality within the social media realm. A quick scroll through Denny’s Twitter or Tumblr accounts shows how the brand has not only created an upbeat, odd personality that many Millennials find entertaining and friendly, but has curated its own community of followers that are frequently engaged by the brand’s social media accounts (as seen in the #Dennys on Twitter).

Now that Denny’s has become such a presence online, The “Always Open” campaign could continue with more promise of engagement. Continuing with the unscripted conversations between comedians, Denny’s could tap into the potential of online celebrities and popular pop culture references. Youtube stars like Tyler Oakley and Jenna Marbles have gained a huge following in the past couple years and could cultivate a quick following from their regular viewers on their own Youtube channels. Tumblr-popular celebrities like Darren Criss, Tom Hiddleston, and Rebel Wilson come with a huge following of the online community (this could also work with promotion from the Denny’s Tumblr page itself) and can promise interesting improvisation. Stars of pop culture favorites like Harry Potter and Orange is the New Black could expand audience rates even more within their own fandoms.

Marketing towards Millennials works best when they are engaged in the conversation; they want to be talked with, not at. Showing a common interest with them, like their favorite celebrity or shared sense of humor, will make them want to check in more often. Denny’s has become such a successful brand and advertiser because it doesn’t make its consumers see it as a business, but as a friend.

Check out these other articles related to Denny’s social media success:

AdWeek’s “Denny’s: Always Open”

New York Times’ “Denny’s Uses Series to Speak to Young Adults”

Fast Company’s “Brand Content Breakdown: Behind Denny’s Celeb-Driven ‘Always Open'”

Marketing Land’s “Tweeting for ‘America’s Diner’- 5 Questions with the Guy Driving Denny’s Social Success”

Schaefer Marketing Solutions’ “Case Study: Denny’s Flips Its Audience With A Sassy Social Media Strategy”

References:

Denny’s: Always Open. (2013, January 1). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.warc.com.proxy.library.ohiou.edu/Content/ContentViewer.aspx?MasterContentRef=88938d44-9669-407b-aaed-c1eb5c71cd5a&q=Dennys&CID=A99588&PUB=CANNES

Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change. (2010, February 24). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/02/24/millennials-confident-connected-open-to-change/

Taylor, K. (2014, January 20). How Denny’s Weirdness Wins the Social Media Game. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241670

Knox, D. (2013, September 13). Looking to Reach Millennials? Be Where the Action Is. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228256

Chapman, M. (2011, March 8). Denny’s: Always Open by AdWeek. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/dennys-always-open-130485