Denny’s fluffs up digital to sell its new pancakes

The breakfast wars just got a whole lot fluffier. Fifty percent fluffier, to be exact.

Denny’s is rolling out 50 percent fluffier pancakes across its over 1,700 locations this week, and announcing the move — made with a nod to the growing demand for fresher ingredients — through partnerships with YouTube, Snapchat and other digital channels in its biggest campaign to date.

Consumers already thought the chain’s pancakes are good, but Denny’s market research shows that 44 percent of them prefer homemade. “So we wanted to make our pancakes even better than those made by your grandma, your dad, your wife and your husband,” said John Dillon, chief marketing officer for Denny’s, at a press event in New York City. “We are welcoming everyone to taste for themselves.”

The new recipe includes fresh buttermilk, eggs and a hint of vanilla. Dillon explained that the product development has been going on for three years and his team started testing marketing last year. He is confident they will sell like, well, hotcakes.

To make sure they do, in addition to two standard 30-second TV spots and some 15-second spots, the campaign – which is the biggest from the chain investment-wise and scale-wise – features Snapchat geo-target filters for the first time across Denny’s more than 1,700 restaurants.

“This is our first major foray into Snapchat,” said Dillon. “We need to interact with millennials and Gen Z on the platform because they are our toughest pancake critics.”

Snapchat aside, Denny’s has purchased a variety of pre-roll videos on YouTube to target gamers and music lovers, and it will release an unboxing video on the platform later this month.

Denny’s popular animated web series “The Grand Slams” – which features animated versions of popular menu items – will be focused on the new pancake dish, in the form of a late night talk show between Pancake and Bacon, in collaboration with Nascar driver Denny Hamlin. “The Grand Slams” has garnered 115 million video impressions and 62 million complete views since its launch in the end of 2014, said Dillon.

He added that Denny’s has also formed partnerships with Pandora, BuzzFeed and Facebook, but he declined to detail campaigns on those platforms.

Denny's 50 percent fluffier pancakes
Denny’s 50 percent fluffier pancakes

Denny’s pancake rollout could amplify the chain’s brand positioning as “America’s Diner” since 2010 who provides comfort food at a good price.

“They have ‘real’ buttermilk, a major buzzword that lends to a certain health halo for consumers. And vanilla adds depth of flavor,” said Elizabeth Freier, managing editor of menu analysis at research company Technomic. “Those items make the pancakes fluffier and closer to what customers are accustomed to having at home, meaning they give a sense of nostalgia which is huge for customers.”

Denny’s worldwide sales reached $2.7 billion in 2015, up 3.8 percent from a year prior, say company reports. Although Dillon said that “any brands need to beef up digital capabilities and data” and Denny’s is “increasing our focus on technology,” the chain’s spent around $64.9 million on advertising last year, compared to $162.3 million by Applebee’s, one of its competitors, and $86.1 million by rival IHOP, according to WPP’s Kantar Media.

Indeed, IHOP ran its first series of Facebook Live videos earlier this month to promote its new range of “Paradise Pancakes.” The three videos were nothing more than a shot of pancakes sitting on a table at a beach. Yet together, they amassed over 385,000 video views with people watching over 171,000 minutes, quickly becoming IHOP’s highest-performing social video effort to date.

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