‘Independence Day: Slamsurgence’: 5 Questions With Denny’s John Dillon

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Denny's Independence Day: Resurgence

It’s Denny’s turn to partner with an anticipated Hollywood action blockbuster film.

The original all-day breakfast brand is teaming up with the long-awaited Independence Day: Resurgence with a diverse campaign that ranges from a sweepstakes to win a trip to the movie’s premiere screening, to posting photos on social media sites of “the group of people [fans would] choose to help combat the impending alien resurgence,” as the company put it.

“We’re thrilled to offer this epic experience that celebrates Independence Day: Resurgence and gives guests and fans an exclusive taste of the movie they can’t get anywhere else,” CMO John Dillon said in a press release.

Along the way, “America’s Diner” also will be bringing back its “Red, White & Bacon” menu to coincide with its partnership with the long-awaited sequel to the epic original Independence Day, which came out 20 years ago. The special menu returns with favorites such as the Maple Bacon Sundae as well as new entrees such as a Honey Jalapeno Bacon Sriracha Burger.

And Denny’s keeps feeding its highly successful online video series featuring the animated “Grand Slams,” who wisecrack their way through various scenarios and have generated 37 million total views so far. Partly as a result of its branded entertainment investment, this year Denny’s experienced its highest same-store sale and traffic growth in more than a decade, according to Adweek.

In the latest episode, which ties in with the Denny’s movie promotion, breakfast foods prepare for an alien invasion with the requisite tin-foil hats and other accoutrements—before realizing the “invasion” is actually a trailer for Independence Day: Resurgence by 20th Century Fox.

brandchannel talked with Dillon about steering a marketing effort for Denny’s that is feeding a variety of appetites right now.

bc: This tie-in with the new Independence Day film isn’t the first time you’ve done something like this?

Denny's CMO John Dillon

John Dillon: No, we’ve done a few very successful ones. Two years ago, we partnered with Warner Bros. to promote The Hobbit movie franchise with a dedicated menu of Hobbit Food, and that was very successful for us. And last year, we partnered with 20th Century Fox and Fantastic Four to promote our “Slamtastic” menu.

We don’t want to partner with a movie just to partner with a movie. We want to create a win-win partnership, promoting the property itself and our menu. And we’ve had a really good track record over the past few years.

bc: So what have you learned along the way that you’re applying to the newest relationship?

Dillon: First and foremost, we have to make sure it makes sense for the target audience: millennial families. And Independence Day hits that sweet spot right on. Also, we don’t just do it for borrowed equity but we partner with movies that help us promote what we wanted to promote anyway.

For example, “Red, White & Bacon” was already on our calendar. So we’ve got America’s Diner, a fantastic movie franchise, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July coming up, and our red, white and blue fare—that’s Americana at its finest. It readily became an additive relationship, and it reinforces what we wanted to do with our guests anyway.

Also, with the exclusive content that is on our site for Independence Day fans—the same formula we used with The Hobbit and Fantastic Four—it brings additional eyeballs to our brand and additive content for guests.

bc: Was it a natural to integrate the Independence Day campaign with “The Grand Slams” online series?

Dillon: Yes, we saw some synergies. Guests will be talking about our partnership with the movie, so it became something that made sense for us. “The Grand Slams” are culturally relevant. The movie will be a huge blockbuster and so it will be culturally relevant. The characters talk about culturally relevant events, so this will be no different. It made perfect sense.

Denny's Red, White & Bacon

bc: With fast food brands invading the all-day breakfast arena that you created, is that a good thing or a bad thing for Denny’s?

Dillon: We love the attention on breakfast. We were the originators of all-day breakfast and we’ve been doing it for 63 years. We’re flattered by the attention to breakfast. We not only offer better breakfast items but they’re made to order and customizable—other places can’t do that. And we serve it in a better way; we’re set up operationally to please our guests.

Denny's Independence Day: Resurgence

bc: Like most restaurant brands, you’ve been tacking more toward better-for-you fare. What’s your approach to that growing segment?

Dillon: As a diner, we’re known for variety, and every year we have more better-for-you items. For instance, you can literally build a Grand Slam more than 300 ways for under 550 calories using ingredients such as turkey bacon, chicken sausage and egg whites. We’ve got yogurt and fresh fruit and a veggie skillet. We just added gluten-free English muffins. So those items are selling well for us.


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