Project Overview

After years of declining sales and a deteriorating public image, Denny’s realized it needed to shift its attention to a millennial audience by recharging a slow moving social atmosphere. In 2013, the iconic diner chain embraced these modern consumers with a newly invigorated social strategy– serving up a never-ending buffet of shareable, bacon-fueled content (with a heaping helping of pop culture zeitgeist).

Popular industry thinking around what it meant to be a restaurant brand on social was stale and corporate (often focused on posting images straight from their menus). Denny’s completely shifted the way a brand interacted with its followers and reconsidered the content people desired from a brand like Denny’s– one that is best known for late night dining and “curious” customers.

The Strategy

At the time, Tumblr was a platform nearly untouched by brands, not introducing it’s sponsored post until 2014. Likewise, Twitter served as an “always on” platform, allowing followers to interact with the brand 24 hours a day. We saw these platforms as the most conversational, keeping Facebook focused on customer service and promotional content. We met with the teams at Tumblr and Twitter to get a better understanding of the cultural landscape, realizing these platforms were a place to create and express your identity– typically cultivating niche communities. We realized we needed to develop a persona, one that would break the mold of brands on social using unique imagery based on underground internet culture (often inspired by communities like vaporwave and meme culture) and a unique tone of voice– casual, sassy, and sometimes nonsensical. We wanted people to question the legitimacy of these accounts and create a buzz around the way we were using these platforms.

The Content

Capitalizing on trending topics, current events, engaging with twisted humor, and community interaction– we kept the conversation fresh and relevant while still posting promotional content when needed. Each day Denny’s received 500-1,000 messages on Tumblr (and more on Twitter), ranging from original fan art to questions on how you can score a free Grand Slam (a popular design-your-own-breakfast option). We made it a point to personally respond, and some of the submissions helped inspire a handful of Denny’s original GIFs, which are anything but your standard magazine-fare advertising.


The Effects

Through a flurry of timely and creative GIFs and image macros, the 60-year-old chain restaurant managed to court a new generation of patrons online– most importantly, getting people to actually go to Denny’s. For example, Tumblr users wrote romantic fiction about an anthropomorphised Denny’s and LongHorn Steakhouse. We began to see a trend of followers using #dennysselfie, which patrons used while uploading photos of themselves at the restaurant (which we then used as content for social).

“We don’t know who’s running it, but we can imagine there’s a healthy serving of psychedelics sitting next to him or her. Look at the craziest posts and try to explain what the hell is going on.”

– Tumblr user

Even more– it got the brand to rethink its image in the real world. Denny’s opened a Las Vegas location, allowing people to get married and curate their own custom menu. In its New York location, the chain created a custom cocktail menu, matching the more metropolitan lifestyle. The brand even toyed with the idea of creating a custom 4/20 menu in states with legalized marijuana usage (targeting one of its most frequent customers).

followers in under 4 months
without paid ad support.
brand account on Tumblr, ousting
Coke from the number one position.
brand to have a sponsored post
on the Tumblr platform.
views on the Dennys Tumblr in four months.
increase in social engagement for the brand.


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