Denny’s, the quick-service restaurant chain, took an unusual path to finding its purpose, but has been able to powerfully leverage this guiding principle for its brand.

John Dillon, CMO at Denny’s, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2018 Masters of Marketing Week.

The brand, he explained, succeeded in a turnaround process that has included embracing its popular status as a “diner” – a term it had previously avoided – to show it was open to all types of people, all day, with food at various pricepoints.

It has also introduced healthier menu options, remodeled its restaurants, recommitted to diversity, enabled people to order online, established a social-media voice based on the sorts of conversations people have it diners, and tapped digital content.

“We needed something more; something deeper; something more intimate to anchor us internally and externally around why we were doing what we’re doing, [and] to understand the true role we played in our guests’ lives,” said Dillon. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Denny’s flips the marketing textbook to find its purpose.)

In short, it needed to find a brand purpose. “The new marketing textbooks say you’re supposed to do that first, right?” Dillon asked. “Who has time for textbooks? It doesn’t work that way.”

The means for identifying its purpose was simple, but powerful: “We were about to commission another deep dive expensive piece of research to figure out the grand purpose when we ran across interview our founder did in 1953,” said Dillon.

“When asked why he started Denny’s, he said, literally in the newspaper article, these simple words: ‘Because we love to feed people.’

“We had it and we canceled the research. Clearly, he meant the literal, physical sense of feeding people, but he also meant so much more.”

And this fed into a clear statement of intent for Denny’s as a brand. “Our brand purpose is a simple one: We love to feed people – to feed their bodies but, just as importantly, to feed their minds and their souls every single day,” Dillon said.

One example of this idea in action was providing much-needed sustenance to people living in areas that have been hit by hurricanes with a “Mobile Relief Diner” that can travel the country to offer free, comforting food from Denny’s.

“It was the epitome of our brand purpose of feeding people: bodies, minds and souls,” Dillon told the ANA confab.

Sourced from WARC