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Denny’s exec: Location-based messaging lifts store visits, augments brand

denny's 185NEW YORK – A Denny’s executive at the 2015 Mobile Marketing Association Forum New York revealed that location-based messages and advertisements have resulted in ramping up the restaurant brand’s in-store visits, proving that targeted data is imperative for food and beverage marketers to drive sales.

During the “Denny’s Uses Location-Based Advertising to Gain a Competitive Edge” session, the executive discussed the brand’s decision to embrace its status as America’s diner and use mobile to bring more consumers of all ages into its storefronts, providing for a comfortable atmosphere for guests. Its recent campaigns, which were completed with location-based mobile advertising firm xAd, sought to capitalize on the fact that 47 percent of mobile activity occurs from outside the home.

“We have a brand that has the luxury of having pretty high brand awareness,” said John Dillon, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Denny’s, Spartanburg, South Carolina. “But we hadn’t been relevant to our guests in the way we wanted to be.

“We had to attack that head on and turn our business around. We dug into our guests, the people that loved us and came to us, as well as people that were on the fence,” he said.

“Our goal was to build that relationship of what it means to be a Denny’s guest and how we relate to them.”

Connecting with consumers
Denny’s sought to sustain its relationship with an older demographic as well as entice a variety of new consumers to visit its bricks-and-mortar locations, such as millennials. The brand tapped mobile as the most optimal way to do this.

“Over the past three or four years, we’ve seen explosive growth in smartphone usage,” said Monica Ho, vice president of marketing at xAd, Inc., New York. “The mobile screen has become the dominant screen.”

Denny’s partnered with xAd to usher in a new wave of digital engagement to resonate with consumers of all ages. It rolled out an animated digital series, The Grand Slams, in honor of the restaurant’s popular dish, a move which saw success.

“Clearly, TV advertising for a restaurant brand has and always will have a key role,” Mr. Dillon said. “There’s so much more than that. We needed to age down our brand.”

At the start of the partnership, xAd rolled out banner ads to consumers in the vicinity of a Denny’s restaurant to advertise the build-your-own pancakes promotion. In 2014, the brand started to learn what was resonating with the audience, and decided to expand targeting by taking location data to try to understand the audience.

This expanded into a new measurement: store visitation lift.

Ms. Ho advised marketers to use location data to define the who and the what, and leverage it via messaging and creative. Ultimately, offline consumers matter.

“You want to make the messaging very relevant to them,” Ms. Ho said.

Re-engaging via campaigns
While Denny’s found that 95 percent of consumers were familiar with the brand, it also aimed to translate that high brand awareness into higher amounts of store visits. Since 47 percent of mobile activity occurs outside the home, it was logical to employ location-based targeting to tap on-the-go consumers.

Location proved to be an important context for campaigns, as the brand saw highest engagement when using location-based messages.

With one campaign, there was a 43.3 percent increase in visits when messages had a location overlay.

As 90 percent of retail commerce happens offline, in-store is an important metric for brands to keep in mind. Offline is a significant component of mobile that marketers should consider in their performance metrics.

“We’re barely scratching the surface as a brand,” Mr. Dillon said.

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York