Denny's may be a 62-year-old brand, but it's one that understands the Internet. The restaurant chain's snarky online persona, crafted by Erwin Penland, has kept its brand awareness high. But what do you do when you want to shake things up? Denny's, which branded itself as America's diner, decided to anthropomorphize its 38-year-old signature dish, the Grand Slam breakfast.
Launched last fall, the Web series, The Grand Slams, put facial features on a pancake, an egg, sausage and bacon. And it seems to be working for the brand (with 13 episodes, the series has 15.8 million views).
"We wanted to take our iconic dish and add that personality of Denny's and make something entertaining for the millennial generation," said Denny's chief marketing officer John Dillon. "It's something that's a little bit off-center, but [the characters are] really reacting to the relevant pop culture. It's what people talk about in a diner booth."
Erwin Penland partnered with Stoopid Buddies Studios, the shop behind Robot Chicken, for The Grand Slams. This month, the brand added a partnership with 20th Century Fox for Fantastic Four, so in recent episodes, The Grand Slams got a superhero makeover.
"The Grand Slam—Denny's most iconic item—has been around so long that you almost feel like you know the Grand Slam as a person," said Con Williamson, chief creative officer at Erwin Penland. "We just started playing with it. It's almost like we're playing with our food."
By making the Web series about its product, Denny's has found a way to be culturally relevant without being overly branded, according to Dillon.
"We don't have to put the product in there, because they are the product," said Williamson.