Denny’s Stacks on the Digital

Marketing, at its best, doesn’t feel like marketing. It feels like value. It’s when brands create experiences that educate, engage, and entertain consumers in the channels that they want to interact in. Gaming has become a popular way for marketers to generate these experiences. Family restaurant chain Denny’s created its own tasty gaming experience by launching a digital challenge to drive guest traffic and sales.

This past July Denny’s reintroduced its Build Your Own Pancakes menu. However, the menu was only going to be available for one month. So, Denny’s needed to notify customers of this limited time menu—and fast. To drive brand awareness and traffic—and ultimately sales—Denny’s partnered with Dailybreak Media and launched the Build Your Own Pancakes Challenge. After logging into Dailybreak’s platform via Facebook or email, diners could participate in a seven-step challenge—such as by watching videos, answering pancake trivia, and designing their own digital pancakes. Once consumers added their favorite toppings and named their pancakes, they could share their cooking creations with their social networks. They could also locate the nearest Denny’s on a digital map in case they wanted to sample their maple-syrup masterpieces. Consumers would win Dailybreak digital coins for completing the challenges, which they could then cash in for rewards, such as discounts or gift cards.

Erik Jensen, director of advertising and merchandising for Denny’s, says the company targeted young families and launched the campaign to align with the back-to-school season. Along with driving in-store traffic through the challenge, Denny’s drove traffic through its mobile store locator. The mobile store locator used geo-fencing to find the closest Denny’s restaurant. Jensen says Denny’s also promoted the campaign via TV, radio, print, banner ads, paid social, and search. In addition to working with Dailybreak, Denny’s worked with media agency Optimedia and advertising agency Erwin Penland.

Jensen says targeting young millennial families requires Denny’s to be where the customers are at all times. “Our guest was constantly moving, and we had to move with them,” Jensen says.

Within just four weeks Denny’ experienced more than 30,000 engagements, more than 25,000 pancake design submissions, and more than 26,000 store locator searches. Jensen also says that the average pancake participant spent three minutes engaging in the challenge, and 84% of users completed all seven steps. Furthermore, Denny’s achieved a 572% return on ad spend, Jensen says.

He adds that Denny’s uses consumer feedback resources, such as qualitative studies and brand trackers, to determine where diners want to engage. However, he says that marketers also have to stay on top of budding trends, like social gaming, by simply staying alert.  

“You have to be in the space, [and] you have to be present,” he says. “You have to keep your eyes and ears open for emerging trends.”

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