Ep. 13. Best Mattress Brand Ad Campaigns of All Time?

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Just for fun, Mike and Jeff take a look back at some of the most memorable national advertising campaigns that have come from mattress brands over the past 20+ years, highlighting the ones that they think stand the test of time.

Along the way, they discuss aspects of each campaign that were most instrumental to its success, and what can be learned from these campaigns for the benefit of future advertising in the mattress category. What do you think of their list and/or their criteria? Which ads did they forget? Which didn’t really deserve to be mentioned? Leave a comment to let them know!

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Full Transcription:

[Mike Magnuson]

Is that good? 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, yeah… it’s good!

[Laughter]

[Mike Magnuson]

Why are you laughing about it? 

[Jeff Cassidy]

Because the ‘fun’ part. Your definition of fun is weird.

[Mike Magnuson]

Wait, you don’t think looking at old mattress brand campaigns is fun? I am confused.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Well, let’s have fun. Are you ready? 

[Mike Magnuson]

It’s Saturday, this is what I was going to be doing anyways, mattress brand campaigns. Come on! Today we wanted to take a look at some of the campaigns that have worked, in our view, really well and kind of stand the test of time. We just thought it would be kind of, it’s a little bit of a lighter topic, obviously there’s a lot of just our opinion here, so take it for what it’s worth. We started having a conversation about this Jeff and I recently, and we just thought you know what? Let’s just record this for the podcast, it could be kind of fun, maybe something will come out of it that people can learn from and if nothing else, it might be fun for you to reflect back on some of these cameras.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, other people might disagree and have other great ones, that’d be fun to hear other people’s thoughts.

[Mike Magnuson]

We’d love to hear from you guys as to what you think we missed. I’m sure there’s one that we’re forgetting. We haven’t been students of the mattress industry for nearly as long as some of our listeners, for me just really the past 10 years or so, and even less than that. But nonetheless, I think where I would start the list, and not necessarily in order of you know best on down, but certainly if we’re going to go back in time to the oldest campaign that I still remember and made an impact, I think maybe even is still being felt is Beautyrest Bowling Ball campaign. I don’t know if the average consumer has any recollection of which brand did that campaign, but I think there’s a lot of consumers out there who would still remember that ad if prompted. In that respect, that campaign for sure stands the test of time as one. Since it hasn’t run in 20 some years, and yet people, I for one as an example, still remember it irrespective of my work in the mattress industry-

[Jeff Cassidy]

When did that one run?

[Mike Magnuson]

In the 90s, that one’s from the 90s. So yeah that to me, I think you gotta put that on the list. I don’t you know-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, I think that’s fair.

[Mike Magnuson]

And then along that same line, and maybe even to a degree from that same time frame, you’d have to say, I think you also put Temporary ads that had the wine glass with the handprint too. I think those were probably part of the same campaign, the wine glass and handprint.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Certainly. I think those were ones, you had mentioned this earlier before we turned on the microphone, that they hit the broader consciousness so people who weren’t thinking about mattresses, weren’t shopping for mattresses, they remember those.

[Mike Magnuson]

I think there was a saturday night live skit maybe even about the wine glass, or like there’s definitely been parody type stuff with the wine glass, that certainly signals that it transcended a mattress ad when it gets to something that people are parodying in the general public. So yeah that certainly stands out. Both of those by the way, the bowling ball and the wine glass are obviously touting the same feature motion isolation, and I think that speaks to something that was effective about those campaigns, which is that they were able to highlight a specific feature and then translate that. People could readily translate it into a benefit for them, like ‘yeah I get woken up during the night, or my partner gets woken up during the night by these movements so hey that’s a benefit I can readily identify with’. It’s a demonstration that proves in a convincing fashion, that this product excels in that feature.

[Jeff Cassidy]

I think at that point memory foam was not a common thing, so the slow returning to form handprints was demonstrating this unique and novel material that people weren’t at all familiar with, so it was a very innovative brand new type of material.

[Mike Magnuson]

So yeah, that’s a feature that you could tie that to a conformance and stuff like that. Which is a feature and a benefit I guess, so I think in that respect it was something that people could readily identify with, but maybe even more so as it relates to the handprint, it just sparked people’s curiosity. When I saw that handprint I wanted to touch it-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, I want to stick my hand into it and do that.

[Mike Magnuson]

And you remember when they were only at places like Brookstone, or I don’t know if it was Brookstone or Hamburger Slumber or Sharper Image, but for a long time that was the only place you could try one of those, and I remember even being a teenager and going into one of those stores just just to touch one of those things, I wanted to see if that handprint worked for my hand. I don’t know why it wouldn’t have, but nonetheless it was so interesting to see that. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

They had the benefit of having a brand new material, something very innovative and unique that people hadn’t seen before, so that also helps right in making an ad memorable, because it’s the first time you ever saw, in this case memory foam, but it could be something else it could be self-driving cars today.

[Mike Magnuson]

Yes, so those two go right up at the top of the list for sure. I think just to continue in that same vein, I put the recent Purple campaign right up there as well, and the reason I’m mentioning that next is it ties to what you’re just saying about something unique. They were coming to market with this grid, and by large the average public had not seen before, but they found a way to showcase something unique about it, in a way that was really novel and attention-grabbing which was with this egg-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, and well in the whole video itself you know… The humor and the video was well done and funny. 

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, the goldilocks… But I think the egg premise was particularly, if he just had the goldilocks thing, I think that would have been nowhere near as impactful as when they introduced this egg test, which was like demonstrating this unique characteristic of this unique material in a way that was kind of confounding for people. It’s the same thing, when we reviewed the product we had to replicate the egg test, because we just had to see it for ourselves . And I think for a lot of people they just feel like ‘man, I got to see this product for myself  to understand how this could be possible, that you could sit on the egg.’ 

[Jeff Cassidy]

I agree the egg test is kind of the equivalent of the hand print from the Tempur one. It’s highlighting this unique innovative functionality, in this case material again and material and construction thereof, but totally unique and something people had never seen before. 

[Mike Magnuson] 

And I think one thing that’s worth noting about the Purple campaign that was so noteworthy, is that material isn’t particularly new, that’s been around a long time. I mean I remember you and I being you know in-

[Jeff Cassidy]

I was thinking about that actually today, given that it’s Saturday.

[Mike Magnuson]

And I think we’re the only people who walked in that showroom that entire day. That’s how little interest there was. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

No, but when we started talking about this, like what are some of the good ad campaigns? When we started talking about that I was thinking Purple and immediately what came to mind was that meeting with Tony Pierce. Like walking in, and I remember I had just joined forces with you. I think I was like right after I got into Goodbed. 

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, it was early days.

[Jeff Cassidy]

I remember leaving, being like that stuff seems really cool, and that guy seems really nice, and he clearly is a super smart guy and he was really happy to talk to us about this material. I hope he makes it. And given that nobody else was in the showroom, I was thinking that the odds are against him, but I really hope he makes it. And then you look at how Purple ended up doing… How those guys communicated that uniqueness to the entire world is pretty amazing. 

[Mike Magnuson]

Well, what I remember thinking where he got me, was when he said non-linear resistance. I’m not even joking. I know that sounds incredibly nerdy, but when he explained it in the context of non-linear resistance, the buckling and like how this was… The light bulb went on for me. I was like, wow that is truly unique, that does actually address an issue as it relates to how do you support areas that are like concave, while allowing convex areas to kind of sink further in, as they need to do in order to maintain a proper alignment. And I had thought about those things in the past,  In the absence of ever thinking about the linearity of resistance of, you know that property in a material because I just wasn’t even thinking at all about that being an option… That a material could have that property. And when he explained that and immediately a light bulb went off in my head about how this solved this problem that was kind of a vexing problem. But then I remember specifically thinking non-linear resistance that worked with me-

[Jeff Cassidy] 

Yeah, and how do you communicate this?

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, how do you get that message to the average person? Let alone how do you communicate that with it through you know… kind of the indirect method of training RSAs and having them communicate it. Like this is going to be a tough sell, I walked out of that basically convinced that this thing this technology has value, but that it probably is never going to work in retail. And obviously that campaign was the 100% central key to it ever having any legs at retail, because they figured out a way to connect those dots by telling that story directly to the consumer through that campaign, and in a very accessible way. I think it still isn’t necessarily clear to the consumer why the fact that the egg doesn’t break is a benefit to them as a sleeper, exactly that part, but nonetheless it was enough that people could go ‘wow that’s unique’.

[Jeff Cassidy] 

“That’s something different”- 

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, “that’s something different”… Yeah I kind of get the general premise of maybe how that could benefit me, but from there they were able to really succeed. Not only in their direct sales but also in driving traffic to retail. So that’s obviously if a campaign can do that, you gotta put it on this list.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Obviously Purple had the benefit of the internet with that ad, right. Like that ad wasn’t on TV and you had to see it on TV. You could watch that-

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, and they needed longer than 30 seconds to tell them.

[Jeff Cassidy] 

Yeah, and you can forward it and somebody can watch it immediately and share it, so it can go viral. Versus before the internet, Tempur had the hand print and the wine glass totally unique, innovative material, something new people want to check it out, but you had to see the ad. Like you had to see it, or you had to have somebody tell you about it and then you had to see it.

[Mike Magnuson]

All you had to do at that time was just stay up past midnight and you were pretty much going to see it. If your TV was on that ad was coming on at some point.

[Jeff Cassidy]

But the ability to go viral is powerful. And that Purple-

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, that’s another good point, like another good reason why that ad should be on this list is-

[Jeff Cassidy] 

It went viral. 

[Mike Magnuson] 

It did go so viral. Yeah, so it not only was solving this massively complex problem of how do you communicate this feature, this rather unique and nerdly advantageous feature, to the general audiences. But it also did it in a way that was so entertaining that it went viral. Another one I want to… I don’t have a specific campaign to point to per say. But I think Sleep Number has to be recognized in this conversation. Because they I think just in general have been very effective in their advertising over the course of their history. I mean you can look at just the fact that they’ve been able to build up to become whatever they are the fifth largest brand, and they’ve really done that I mean… For most of their history they’ve been selling only direct through their own stores and direct channels.Their stores by the way, most of them are in malls. I’d argue not necessarily a venue that most mattress retailers have had a lot of success in, like being inside of malls. That kind of says to me, what is it about that formula that works for sleep number? Well I’d argue it’s the advertising, they’ve been very good at advertising. So good that when people walk by one of their stores in a mall, they go ‘yeah, I want to check that out’. That advertising resonated with me enough that I want to go check that product out now that it’s like 20 paces away from where I’m standing. That formula I think really works well for Sleep Number because they’ve been so good at advertising. It’s kind of just like they get… I don’t have a specific campaign in mind-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Effected ongoing execution of- 

[Mike Magnuson]

Like a lifetime achievement award. 

[Jeff Cassidy]

That’s good, that’s a good way to put it.

[Mike Magnuson]

They’ve been very effective at executing advertising that generates interest in their products, over the span of their whole-

[Jeff Cassidy]

But today their stores are probably not predominantly in malls right? I mean they’re-

[Mike Magnuson]

Well, I think obviously as foot traffic has migrated in general, you know as people have moved away from malls in general, their store footprint has moved away from malls. But I think historically speaking that’s still a statement.

[Jeff Cassidy]

In the past, earlier on it was like that .

[Mike Magnuson]

Even in recent history, it’s been a little heavily biased towards malls I think. But moving in a direction probably away from that, I’m guessing. So those would certainly be in there, and then my mind next goes to the sort of Sheep. I mean that would be certainly the most memorable campaign that maybe doesn’t relate to specific features and benefits. And then sometimes they’ve tried to tie the Sheep to specific features and benefits. You know, like they did with Icomfort recently and the Sheep’s are running away from the heat and into the cool showroom of the Eye Comfort mattresses and things like that. But generally speaking the Sheep are kind of like a figure that sits above all their products.

[Jeff Cassidy]

And that is very memorable, that is such a recognized character, that the sort of sheep. So that one has to be on the list. 

[Mike Magnuson]

Exactly, that might be the most recognized kind of what would you call that? A brand spokesperson, kind of brand association, like if you had to have in terms of iconography-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Icon. That’s a good one. 

[Mike Magnuson] 

Like a brand icon. 

[Mike Magnuson]

I think that sort of sheep is the most recognized brand icon that any ad campaign in the mattress industry has produced in the last few decades.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Have there been other animated characters? 

[Mike Magnuson]

Well, I mean you’ve had the goldilocks in the Purple ads, and in fact they also had a sasquatch character in some of their ads, and you know Nectar recently had a sleep guru guy in their ads. I mean it was kind of clever. There’s been other characters to a degree-

[Jeff Cassidy] 

Before the online craze, were there any other animated characters for any brands that were around for any amount of time? it was before my time so I don’t really remember.

[Mike Magnuson]

There’s none that come to mind which I think kind of illustrates why Serta’s sheep are so memorable. Yeah, why they deserve to be on this list. But it’s not to say that there haven’t been. So don’t take any offense out there, if we’re missing or forgetting something. But I think that certainly deserves to be on the list. Then beyond that I think it starts to get a little bit harder to call out specifically you know, like there definitely have been some ones that come to mind.  I mean I know for Jeff, I know who you’re thinking. 

[Jeff Cassidy] 

Tom Brady, Beautyrest. To those who are listening, Mike and I, we started to get into this debate. I am a Patriots fan , and grew up in Maine. So when you grow up in Maine your teams are Boston teams, because Maine doesn’t have any teams. Lifetime Patriots fan, obviously a fan of Tom Brady, grateful to Tom Brady. So that ad I admit I’m biased, but that ad is memorable to me. 

[Mike Magnuson] 

Oh yeah, I think that you need to put the word super fan. 

[Jeff Cassidy] 

I mean like as long as you say it like that “super fan”.  

[Mike Magnuson] 

Yeah, I think you’re definitely a big fan of Tom Brady. So I’m sure that campaign with Beautyrest makes it onto your list. 

[Jeff Cassidy] 

It does. 

[Mike Magnuson] 

As a super memorable one. And then you know, I kind of remember one, I don’t actually know what the overall… how successful this would be categorized, but I certainly remember it. Which is the campaign Seeley did maybe eight, nine years ago. “Whatever you do in bed, we support it”. And it was at the time considered… racy? yeah I certainly thought it was a bit racy, the implication there being pretty clear, but at the same time also kind of clever. And they were able to kind of make it a little more family friendly, with showing people you know in bed with their pets and their kids and whatever, like hey it’s not just about what we’re… the read between the lines here. It’s also the fact that your bed is the center of a lot of things in your family, and your lifestyle maybe, and things like that. I thought it was clever, I think that it might have been too racy for its own good in the end, but nonetheless it stands out to me as something I remember.

[Jeff Cassidy]

One that has to make the list, doesn’t go quite up with Tom Brady. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this, but there was a video made about hybrid mattresses. Have you ever heard about that?

[Mike Magnuson]

Was it like a music video?

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yep it was a rap video. It was an original Rap song about hybrid mattresses. That one makes the list.

[Mike Magnuson]

That brings it back to me, just in the deep recesses of my memory.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Actually joking aside that video I think is awesome. I wish, I feel like, that deserves to be viral. I guess there’s just not enough average people who care about mattresses as much as we do, but I just think that the video is phenomenal, and the song is good, the actual song, is a good song.

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah, it still working hard for Dos Marcos. I tap my foot to it every time it comes on.

[Jeff Cassidy]

That is, shout out in props for that video, I think it’s awesome.

[Mike Magnuson]

Especially because to that a trade ad essentially.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah it was advertising a concept.

[Mike Magnuson]

Yeah a concept mostly to the trade, it was legit putting out an ad, you know they don’t even sell to consumers or at least they don’t sell springs to consumers. They’re really marketing that product to the trade, and so as a trade ad goes I mean gosh that’s as clever and creative as they come. And it certainly felt like even by consumer ad standards like you said it, it would resonate with people and it could have easily… had the right kind of things come together. That’s certainly worth mentioning here. But as I think about this, I mean one of the things as we as we look back at the list that we’ve already come up with, I do feel like one of the things I notice is that some of those ones that we listed first that seem like the most obvious to include here, they really did focus a lot on features and benefits. And when I think about why does that why does that matter, well one of the things I think is that people see the ad and they can immediately relate to how this product is going to help me, you know and as memorable as like Tom Brady is as you know is fantastic, he’s great quarterback man don’t get me wrong I’m not saying he’s not a great quarterback. But as memorable as as or as great as he is, knowing that he sleeps on it doesn’t necessarily help me understand how this product is going to help me, the way-

[Jeff Cassidy]

It just makes you awesome-

[Mike Magnuson]

All those things obviously are all inferred I guess by his endorsement, but nonetheless I think as a sceptic, I don’t necessarily… look it’s great but at the same time I think the reason why some of the other ones maybe were even higher on our list, was because they did kind of they related to something that a consumer could look at and go yeah that solves a problem for me, I get that. And one of the reasons why that’s so important is because well when are these campaigns running by and at large… Well, a lot of times these campaigns whether because they went viral on youtube or because they were run on television in the first place where you can’t target people who are actually active shoppers. A lot of these campaigns, in other words a lot of the impressions, they’re making to people who are not currently shopping for a mattress. They’re in that 99% of people who are not actively shopping right now for this product, and if you’re going to get value from an ad that’s running to someone who’s not shopping for a mattress right now, you better leave them with something that’s memorable that they can retain for that period of time. That’s between you know however many years it’s going to be before the next time they’re ready to make a purchase. And that’s one of the things I think… If you can do something that ties to a benefit of solving a problem that I have, that seems like the kind of thing I might retain. I’m not looking for a mattress right now, but I do have this problem where my wife and I get jostled, we wake up when the other moves, or when our pet jumps into bed or whatever. So I file that away and go, when time comes to buy a mattress, I’m going to probably look at that Tempur or that Beautyrest the one that has that feature that I saw on that ad. Whereas I’m not sure that the Tom Brady ad sticks with me in that same way for a period of a few years later.

[Jeff Cassidy]

I see your point and yes, definitely true those are ads that are advertising features benefits. But it’s also something totally unique, and it’s something it’s materials that are in all of the mattresses, so it’s a characteristic of the brand. So memory foam, all Tempur mattresses have it. Purple, hyper elastic polymer grid, all of their mattresses have it. With a traditional brand, you have a huge portfolio, you have lots of different models, that contain lots of different materials, different construction types, so it’s much harder to have any kind of feature benefit that spans everything.

[Mike Magnuson]

It’s harder but nonetheless, I think that it’s worth noting that doing that, or at least organizing your product lines within your umbrella brand, around families of products that have some central feature which you can build some unique value, I think is effective. If your product line is kind of scattered underneath that main brand, then maybe it’s going to be harder for you to build value in that brand because of that. Maybe you need to in that case, to think about families of brands, that you can establish underneath that umbrella parent brand, that have features and benefits in common, that you can invest in and build value in, so that you can basically benefit from this effect. You could take this lesson from these successful campaigns of the past, and apply it to your brand. And your point also though is well taken, in the sense of having unique features in itself is hard. But that’s something that is certainly easier said than done, motion isolation when Tempur-Pedic was touting motion isolation, Beautyrest had already done their campaign and Beautyrest has already kind of said hey we’re about motion isolation. So Tempur, while it had a totally different approach to motion isolation, in terms of how it solved that problem, it also came up with a new and unique way to demonstrate it. In other words, I think you could sometimes have features that aren’t necessarily unique to you, but you just come up with a unique way to position your product as solving that. Or maybe you’re targeting a specific audience of people and that makes it unique… I just think that in general to the extent that your campaign, if you’re going to run any kind of an advertisement, and if you listen to any of our podcasts before, you know that we generally think that general advertising, meaning advertising that’s going out to that’s hitting the 99% of people who are not shopping right now, should be your last priority in your advertising hierarchy for sure, and that really the machinery, the fundamental core machinery of your of your advertising should be about reaching the in-market shoppers. But if you’re going to have any money going towards the general campaigns that do hit that 99%, I just think that having something, a message that can resonate with people on a level of like hey this solves a problem for me, this feature, this benefit solves a problem for me, I think it’s probably likely to be an easier path to success, than trying to leave them with something that’s just cute, or that’s generally memorable but doesn’t make that personal connection to them.

[Jeff Cassidy]

Right, like the geico-

[Mike Magnuson]

But even the geico guy, they’re saying save 15% like that… It was about money, but yeah he made it memorable. That’s kind of one of the things I look at when I when I step back and-

[Jeff Cassidy]

Uniqueness is difficult in the world of mattresses, to that point, I think that’s definitely true. There’s so many mattresses on the market that use basically the same materials. It is hard to be unique. But another way to look at it is, if you’re able to come up with something that is unique, then that’s something that you can leverage in advertising. So if you have something that is truly unique, then figure out a way… Yeah, lean into it. Lean into it  because that’s so rare. That’s a great opportunity. But admittedly, coming up with something that is actually unique, from a feature benefit material perspective is difficult. 

[Mike Magnuson]

I think we should wrap it up here. We’ll keep this kind of short, we just thought it’d be a fun topic to cover, and we do encourage you guys please let us know in the comments of this video, or in our Linkedin post, or wherever you see this,  just we’d love to hear your thoughts on what campaigns do you think stand out to you? Why do you think they were effective?  What did we miss?

[Jeff Cassidy]

Yeah, that actually will be fun, to see other people’s ideas.

[Mike Magnuson]

Alright guys, well if you like what you’re hearing, as always, we encourage you to subscribe and please leave us a review. It helps other people discover the podcast. In the meantime, thank you for listening and we’re out.

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