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Marketing a good night’s sleep

Glenda LeGendre Big

Had a good night’s sleep lately?

The current status of mattress marketing is a great metaphor for modern marketing as a whole. If you shopped for a mattress over the last two years, you likely encountered many changes to the products and processes compared to any of your previous experiences. And more ways to hear about the new types of products.

This $14 billion industry has joined the growing list of digitally-disrupted product marketing. According to Fast Company Inc., small startup online mattress companies, with quirky marketing initially targeting millennials, have already impacted the industry to carve out and achieve $1.2 million in sales in just a few years. Over 35 million domestic mattresses are sold annually, and most are kept for eight to 10 years. So the lucrative market turns itself over, pun intended.

For decades, the traditional sales approach for mattresses utilized holiday-driven special pricing strategies, primarily offered from strip mall stores that enjoyed a used car salesmen reputation. The few existing major manufacturers sold so many model numbers that comparison pricing was nearly impossible.

Some initial changes to the field occurred with the introduction of Sleep Number beds and similar artificial foam and “cooler to the feel” beds. IKEA entered the fray by offering a variety of affordable mattresses that rolled up to fit in your car and then expanded once out of the box. Beds are no longer considered just a commodity item.

Online companies such as Casper, Tufts and Needle, Leesa, and Purple emerged to sell you brands of so-called true beds-in-a-box. Prices offered are much lower than traditional products and there is transparent truth in pricing. Shipping may be free. You don’t generally get to try the beds out before buying but you get to read real reviews of actual users online, and there are easy return policies should you not be satisfied — even offers of 100-night no-risk trials.

Optimized websites with great navigational tools are key to these startups’ success, and some of these newer businesses use our ubiquitous digital friend Amazon to sell their products, while others sell direct to consumers.

The companies now create emotionally-driven marketing campaigns designed to promote your better sleep and subsequent better quality of life. Purple uses inventive videos and T&N uses a strong mix of social media channels and billboards in major cities. Educational content engages the customer.

The old floral designs and plushness of the topping are no longer defined marketing features. The approach is more likely to emphasize cool temperatures. Any of the boxed mattresses can generally fit on slats, frames, box springs or whatever the buyer chooses. The mattresses also adapt well to fit around stairs and smaller spaces.

What’s a traditional retailer to do? Sleepy’s was acquired by Mattress Firm and the attractive larger company’s stores used secret shoppers and market research to serve in-store customers better. Traditional stores now wisely realize that most of their customers have checked out their products on digital devices before they enter the store. Pricing and competitive products are well known by savvy consumers.

Bending to the trend, Mattress Firm developed its own emerging brand of bed-in-a box products, called Dream in a Box. These can be purchased online or onsite.

As consumers continue to gain comfort with ordering more products of all types and sizes online, digital marketing approaches will continue to replace much of traditional advertising.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Strategic Marketing and Communications and can be reached at [email protected]


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