About one year ago, I began following Denny’s official Tumblr account, and I have yet to decide if it was a wise decision. As a novice PR professional, it is important to study real-life examples of the information we are taught in class. However, good examples are not necessarily positive.
Case in point: Denny’s unique approach to online engagement. A quick look at their Tumblr and Twitter accounts reveals a mix of professional communication techniques befitting an international restaurant chain as well as informal communication approaches of … well, a 16 year old with newfound access to the Internet and maybe too much time on their hands.
I offer several examples:
Denny’s posts on Twitter and Tumblr often range from creative interpretations of popular memes to exaggerated photo manipulations of menu items that will either make you laugh or cringe. There is seemingly no middle ground when it comes to Denny’s social media presence. You either hate it or you love it. If social media analytics are anything to go by (which they are), then the majority loves it.
Despite an unorthodox sense of humor and public relations approach, Denny’s has become more popular than ever, especially among the elusive Millennial generation, widely considered the most difficult generation to reach. Unlike other companies, Denny’s has successfully figured out a way to attract the attention of Millennials and numerous news/entertainment outlets, including Buzzfeed and the Daily Dot.
According to ListenFirst Media, a global marketing and corporate communications company, Denny’s is among only a handful of brands that consistently manages to generate viral posts. In late August, Denny’s took the opportunity to combine a meme with the North American total solar eclipse to create a popular post on its most popular social media platform, Tumblr.
monday? more like moon-moving-in-front-of-the-sun-day. you know…the eclipse? we’ll be selling super realistic moon-shaped pancakes. pic.twitter.com/IQkNndpvI6
— Denny's (@DennysDiner) August 21, 2017
According to a 2015 research report by Forbes and Elite Daily, only 1 percent of Millennials said that an advertisement would make them trust a brand more, 62 percent enjoy actively engaging with various companies/brands online, and 43 percent value authenticity more than content. It is no surprise why people like Denny’s when a majority of the content it posts online is so keenly aligned with Millennial’s habits and way of thinking — supposedly giving the impression of being silly and relatable.
Nevertheless, Denny’s cannot be considered the poster child of excellent PR practices — not in the long run. As Denny’s learned Aug. 31 on Twitter, being too casual and eager to use memes on social media can backfire spectacularly.
└⚠️ this folder is empty
— Denny's (@DennysDiner) August 31, 2017
Yesterday’s accident might be explained by the same Forbes report mentioned above which states that 60 percent of Millennials are loyal to brands, 42 percent want to co-create products with companies and 75 percent expect companies to give back to society. Community involvement and social/politic advocacy are defining traits among Millennials, and their support for certain companies seems to be heavily tied to those company’s values and passion for the same issues.
So when Denny’s posted a tweet criticizing people who do not tip well, people were quick to point out Denny’s own fault in the matter.
Although Denny’s meant this tweet as funny and sassy, the message was severely criticized by the company’s own followers because it turned a blind eye toward numerous allegations and research that reports Denny’s workers are poorly paid and have a difficult time earning minimum wage.
Memes are like a double-edged sword but Denny’s doesn’t seem to mind getting hit. Much of its popularity on various social media platforms can be attributed to its brash and witty posts. However, this isn’t the first time Denny’s has managed to throw itself under the bus for the sake of entertainment. It makes me wonder just how much further they can push their luck before they catch the sharp side of the sword.
What do you think?