Denny’s is a chain restaurant in the United States known for being open 24/7 and serving breakfast food. I have never been to a Denny’s, so I cannot attest to the quality of their food. But the quality is irrelevant. It’s how we perceive Denny’s as a brand that affects our relationship with them. With consumers now more informed than ever before, Denny’s has to find a way to peddle their pancakes, waffles, sausages, what have you. This is not a problem unique to Denny’s; all brands have to face the inevitability of consumer awareness eventually. What’s unique is how they chose to handle marketing in the information age. And that is by becoming a kind of chameleon that blends in with its surroundings. The surroundings? Teens. In case you haven’t been up to date on marketing trends, Denny’s has been taking the marketing world by storm by keeping up with trends faster than any brand before it. Denny’s has effectively appropriated millennial culture.
They know their movies:
And even their sense of humor:
Oh, and they’re body positive too:
This is both brilliant and terrifying. Brilliant because it’s working – tweets like “hashbrowns on fleek” have racked up nearly 30,000 retweets, and that’s not even the most popular Denny’s tweet. Terrifying because of it blends reality with advertising so skillfully, and again, it seems to be working. “The best Coachella look is french toast remnants all over yr face while not appropriating any other cultures.” Note the flippant use of “yr” and the warning of cultural appropriation. Denny’s not only shows that they’re just as normal as the next guy, but also that they care about social justice issues – something very popular with millennials at the moment. So here we have a brand that has shown it’s hip, it’s aware, and it cares. What now? The profit rolls in.
“Erwin Penland has grown our audiences significantly since beginning to manage Denny’s social accounts. In just under a year we have grown our Tumblr audience by 132,500 followers (253% increase) and our Twitter audience by 51,000 (a 132.8% increase).” (source)
Of course, the blurring lines of reality and adverting are nothing new. As science-fiction author J.G. Ballard wrote in the 70’s:
We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind — mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel.
To make matters even more complicated, we have corporations pretending to be just like us now. The instantaneous stream of data the internet provides allows them to interact with consumers in unprecedented ways. We already willingly ‘like’ brands on social media to get bombarded by ads on our own feed. Not only that, but “viral marketing” is becoming more and more prevalent. The unreality of the new advertising frontier may consume us all.
Brands now have personalities. Instead of tweeting about sales and new products, they have learned to become one of us. What are the consequences? I’m not completely sure. Obviously it’s nothing worth sleeping with a gun under your pillow. But it’s kind of scary to think of how receptive brands like Denny’s are to cultural trends, and how corporations fit into our daily lives.