Denny’s Chief Brand Officer Says Consumers Are Adapting, but Want Brands to Solve Problems, too

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This week, Denny’s unveiled a new advertising campaign to say that it’s open for business—and making it safe for customers to come in.

“We’re finding that what our guests and potential guests are looking to hear is not just what menu items we are offering, but how we are adapting and evolving to the customers’ needs during the Covid era,” said John Dillion, the company’s chief brand officer, told Adweek.

It’s a bid by Denny’s to boost sales at a time when the reopening of the U.S. is pacing slower than expected as the rise in cases of Covid-19 in certain regions has caused some businesses and governments to hit the pause button. The new spots began airing on Monday on both linear television and social media.

Dillon said that Denny’s still takes the stance traditional linear TV advertising is an efficient use of dollars for a national brand—particularly one in the food space. “People still eat with their eyes,” he said.

The ads, both a truncated 15-second clip and an extended one-minute and 10-second version, feature a montage of images: employees donning face masks, cleaning seating areas and washing their hands, a family siting at their dinner table to eat a Denny’s meal and customers either being delivered or picking up their orders.

The commercial acknowledges that “normal doesn’t feel so normal” right now before ticking off all the ways it’s keeping its restaurants clean. The spot concludes with the company’s tagline, “We love to feed people,” while adding, “and that will always be normal to us.”

“They are looking for reassurance it’s a safe environment,” Dillon said. “Even in this world, as upside down and crazy as it is, what’s normal for us is serving the needs of consumers and that‘s the tone of that ad.”

For Denny’s, that includes showing how it’s evolved and adapted to consumers’ needs since the arrival of Covid-19, whether they want to come into the restaurant to eat, want to pick it up or have it delivered.

“We pride ourselves on being America’s diner and on delivering the best dining experience no matter where that may be,” Dillon said. “We serve classic comfort food and we still want to communicate that.”

Dillon said that the company has put the necessary safety measures are in place to welcome back customers, pointing out that value and convenience are more in need than ever, and the ads help communicate that.

“It’s all really keeping your ear to the ground and eyes wide open to what the guests need,” Dillon said, referring to the chain’s efforts around creating safer experiences.

To create the campaign, Denny’s partnered with its agency of record EP + Co. and its media agency Spark.

For Denny’s, which has advertised itself as America’s diner since 2011 and has retained the messaging as part of its marketing efforts, the campaign couldn’t come at a more important time for the company.

For the second quarter that ended June 24, the casual dining chain said that system same-store sales declined nearly 57%. Comparable sales did improve from a decline of 76% in April compared to the year-prior period, to a decrease of 41% in June. But by July, same-store sales stalled, down 39% compared to 2019.

During July, the company suffered a bit of setback in the U.S. in regards to reopening dining rooms. At the beginning of that month, some 1,430 locations were open, but by July 22, that number fell back to 1,035 restaurants.

Sales have remained resilient, according to the company’s CEO John Miller. In a statement tied to second quarter results, he said that the chain has “not experienced a significant drop in sales.”


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