Denny's Names John Dillon Chief Marketing Officer

Exec Led Chain's Move to Millennials With Baconalia, Hobbit Menu

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Denny's has named John Dillon its chief marketing officer.

John Dillon
John Dillon

Mr. Dillon has held the position of VP-marketing since he joined Denny's in 2007. During Mr. Dillon's tenure, he's helped lead marketing on efforts to get millennials interested in Denny's, including a value menu; its current positioning as "America's Diner;" a clever tie-in with the Hobbit movie; and its Baconalia limited-time menu. For these efforts, Mr. Dillon was named an Ad Age Media Maven in 2013.

At the same time as Mr. Dillon's elevation, Denny's announced two other executive moves: Chris Bode to the position of chief operating officer and Jill Van Pelt to the newly created position of chief people officer.

"Chris, John and Jill have all contributed to Denny's success in a meaningful way, further revitalizing America's Diner by leading key initiatives in our plan to drive improvements across our food, service and atmosphere," said John Miller, president-CEO of Denny's. "We look forward to leveraging their leadership and respective expertise to strengthen the Denny's brand and foster future growth of our leading family-dining chain."

Mr. Dillon succeeds Frances Allen, who last month was named brand president of Jack in the Box.

Denny's has been rolling out a series of quirky and increasingly digital marketing efforts recently. The chain this week launched a new animated web series called "the Grand Slams," an effort created by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios and Denny's agency Erwin Penland.

This summer, it launched "remixed" classic Atari games with a Denny's theme, and in the last couple years enlisted the "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan to court Hispanic consumers, created a Middle-Earth inspired menu for the Hobbit promotion and blitzed the market with a Bacchanal bacon celebration.

Denny's first foray into branded content came in 2011 when it launched "Always Open," a talk show that ran on IAC's CollegeHumor site. Aimed at millennials, the show was written and produced by DumbDumb.

Denny's in 2013 posted systemwide U.S. sales of $2.37 billion, according to Technomic, up 1.5% from the prior year. It has about 1,600 locations in the U.S.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story said that John Dillon was previously at Johnny Rockets. In fact, he was VP-marketing at NBA team Houston Rockets.

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