Denny’s Plays Marketing Games

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Effective advertising is measured by customer engagement. Your brand must engage with customers on an emotional level to create a meaningful and profitable relationship. The international restaurant chain, Denny’s has decided to play games with their marketing and it is a big winner!

Before the coronavirus pandemic led to lockdowns on restaurants throughout the country, Denny’s remodeled 80% of its locations to create more comfortable dining spaces, while also using higher-quality menu ingredients and focusing on diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives.

Denny’s is known as America’s diner. They pride themselves as always open and always serving what many consider comfort food. But the restaurant business has been especially hard hit by COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders. Different states have different rules but for many, store hours have changed, and dine-in is no longer an option. Denny’s has made changes to adapt to the current reality.

The restaurant chain has waived delivery fees on orders over $20, created a contactless delivery system, and delivered free meals to first responders.

Since Denny’s was a dine-in restaurant, they didn’t have drive-through windows so they started curbside delivery. Since most drive through areas can’t accommodate 18-wheelers, Denny’s invites truckers to order from their trucks and Denny’s will bring their meals out to the truck. (Some features are not available in all stores.)

In early April, Denny’s announced that more than 30 locations in California and Oregon have set up drive-thru grocery services in the parking lots outside the restaurants. People can go online and preorder items or do it right from their car. Servers will pack up the groceries and bring them to the waiting customers.

Now, Denny’s is online and playing games with consumers on PS4 and Xbox One. Denny’s created the gamer profile Denny247 to engage with the millions of Americans who are stuck at home playing video games. The idea was an instant success on the Nintendo Switch, reaching the limit of friends on the platform in just one day.

More than 164 million U.S. adults play video games, while 75% of households have at least one gamer — a mass audience that Denny’s wants to reach. According to Nielsen, 64% of Americans aged 13+ play video games on a device. Today, 45% of gamers are women and girls. In fact, the most avid mobile gamers are middle-aged women. The residents of nursing homes use the Nintendo Wii to play low impact bowling or golf with their friends.

Denny’s online gaming efforts follow other marketing efforts to be more relevant among younger diners by reaching them through digital media platforms Hulu, Amazon and Pandora.

The marketing through a gaming platform is getting attention and fan engagement with gaming-related posts on Twitter and Instagram.

Denny’s saw a 26% engagement rate on Instagram with more than 81,000 impression on the total engagement of almost 20,000 within moments of announcing Denny’s gaming account in an Instagram Post.  The Denny’s gaming account Dennys247 experienced a 15% engagement rate with about 154,000 impressions and total engagements of more than 23,000 on Twitter.

Denny’s provides incentives to connect with its account on gaming platforms by handing out offer codes for its Denny’s on Demand service, which has become a key sales channel as the coronavirus pandemic limits restaurants in many areas to delivery and takeout.

Denny247 plays six to seven games with its fans in each two-hour gaming session. Denny’s gamer friends have a chance to receive discount codes for its Denny’s on Demand ordering platform, which includes Android and iOS mobile apps and a website.​

Denny’s isn’t the first restaurant chain to engage consumer through online gaming. Wendy’s created a branded video game in the Fall of 2019 launched by Giphy. Wendy’s created a branded avatar the multiplayer game “Fortnite”. That is a popular online game with teens. Wendy’s also used online engagement to live stream a campaign in a “Fortnite” session to promote the launch of the promotion Baconfest.

Gone are the days when Super Mario, Duck Hunt, and Sonic the Hedgehog dominated video game screens. Now gaming is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year market involving some of the biggest brands in the world across a number of devices.

How companies choose to leverage the growing interest in games to drive value will be exciting to watch.

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