Monday, July 6, 2009
Denny’s has been making noise of late. That alone is news for a company which for years has been effectively brand-dead. But new chief marketing and innovation officer Mark Chmiel has shaken things up, first with an attention-getting Super Bowl promotion and now with new, musician-themed menu items and a late-night marketing strategy.
At first blush it seems odd that a brand that was once intentionally associated with octogenarians (“Did you say ‘Lenny’s'?”) would link itself to performers such as Jewel, Rascal Flatts and Good Charlotte. But brands can’t long survive if their customers continue to die, a lesson too many carmakers and cafeteria chains have learned the hard way. Chmiel understands that and no doubt witnessed the success another brand once destined for the grave had using the music of a younger generation. Imagine being on the team that first broached the idea of making Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” the theme song for Cadillac. That took guts, and it paid off.
Denny’s is struggling, like all restaurant chains, with a rotten economy, and same store sales have been flat or down. But the new late night strategy has generated a 5 percent increase in traffic, which is nothing to sneeze at. The rejuvenation of brand Denny’s won’t be easy, but the company deserves credit for recognizing that when growth stalls, sometimes it’s your own fault.
Here’s to its success. I haven’t been to Denny’s in some time, but I’ll give the brand credit by voting with my feet and stopping in to try the new items. I might even choose the Rascal Flatts biscuit, which isn’t only covered in gravy but eggs, cheese, bacon and country-fried steak too.
Then again, maybe I’ll just have oatmeal.