Tempur-Pedic Embraces Hybrids, No Longer Bashing Springs

I am  binge watching  a great series on Amazon Prime right now called Boardwalk Empire. The main character named Nucky is the mob boss that runs things in Atlantic City. He is one of these bad guys that you find yourself cheering for, (think Mr. White in Breaking Bad). Anyway, he is in front of the women’s temperance league during the height of prohibition, speaking on the negative impact alcohol can have on families. He exits the stage, walks to his car, and pulls out his flask for a big tug of whiskey. The obvious hypocrisy of it all is absurd, but it makes a great impact to set the stage for the series.

Speaking of hypocrisy, isn’t that what we are witnessing here with the sudden shift on Tempur-Pedic’s part to embrace innersprings as good and a favorable way to build a mattress? Have the rest of you in the market been making innerspring beds wrong and somehow Tempur-Pedic found the keys to the kingdom and have finally figured out the right way to make an innerspring bed? (Does the Tempur-Pedic product really give you twice the support?) Or is it simply that the hybrid category is so compelling that they are willing to completely abandon their earlier position that innersprings are bad, cause pressure, and are totally inferior to Tempur material? If you really think about it, they built their business in part by attacking innerspring beds as horrible, and are now embracing that construction to make some money.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it. Chances are they are going to do very well with this but I sit here wondering if they will have any issues in this transition. Think about it. You have trained your entire staff to sell your position on Tempur material being the end all be all and far superior to air and innerspring as construction options. Do any of their own people have a problem with this as they now have to go back to the rsa and contradict all those years of training on the sales floor? How about the rsa themselves? Will they embrace Tempur-Pedic in changing direction this way or will their moral compass alert flash red?

 Tempur Pedic Embraces Hybrids, No Longer Bashing Springs

At the end of the day I guess it really just boils down to what will sell. If the products look and feel right and can generate sales and profits for all involved then we as an industry can pivot where needed. If I were the retailer I would likely welcome the new products with open arms if I knew they would deliver some profit, so don’t think I am on some high horse here. I will even go a step further and say that by Tempur-Pedic getting into the hybrid category it will help everyone in it.

I have enough to think about these days so I will leave this conversation up to everyone else from here on out. (Okay, that was a lie.) HOWEVER…after being an innerspring marketing guy for the past 8 years and deflecting the criticism of the category inflicted by the Tempur team, I feel like I have the right to share a few thoughts on the subject. Isn’t it funny when you boil it all down? The main reason that we made the term hybrid popular in the industry was to defend ourselves from Tempur-Pedic and Select Comfort’s attacks on the innerspring category. Since then, the success of the hybrid mattress has driven Tempur-Pedic into the market with spring beds so I guess you could say, they pushed themselves into the spring business. Hmmm.

By the way, if you think I am a Tempur-Pedic HATER then you are wrong. Read just this one post of mine where I give them a significant amount of credit for what they do and who they are. But sometimes you gotta call it like you see it. (I think I got the Simplicity launch correct after reading this post again.)

What do you think, am I being fair here? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

P.S. Tempur-Pedic people, we welcome you to this wonderful world of innerspring mattresses and hope that you are here to stay. We don’t require you to get a tattoo or anything like that to be part of the “hybrid club” but we do want you to own it. So the next time we are sharing a drink together at an industry event, I would like for one of you to stand tall, puff your chest out a little, take a pull on the afore mentioned flask of whiskey and say, “Tempur-Pedic has a hybrid dammit, and we are proud of it!” I will even buy the whiskey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story Behind The Story

About two years ago in Telford, England, I gave a keynote speech at the National Bedding Federation’s gala awards dinner. A guy by the name of Simon Spinks was sitting in the audience and he approached me later to tell me he appreciated what I had to say. Have you had that experience when you meet someone and immediately realize that there is something really great about the person you are talking to? That is what happened with Simon and I, and today, that relationship is turning into something big. Big for my family, big for our retail partners that want more market share, and big for consumers out there that value their quality of life enough to invest in a great mattress.

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From left to right: Michael Bates UK, Eric Johnson, Jeff Quinn, Lance Ellman, Mark Chase, Simon Spinks UK, Mark Quinn, Neil Ellman

My brother Jeff and I have joined forces with the Ellman brothers to bring the Spink and Edgar story that Simon built to the United States. If people really do make the difference in business today then I think we have a stacked team. First off my brother, who started The Mattress Firm (MF) Atlanta with Steve Stagner, Darin Lewin and several other friends from our college days. He has been in retail for over 20 years and has served as President of MF Atlanta and VP of Store Operations at MF Corporate. He bought another retail business after leaving MF and grew that over several years and recently sold it to be my partner and the Chief Operating Officer of our LLC, SIBOSE, which stands for “Sleep is better on a Spink and Edgar”.  The Ellman brothers come from three generations of bed makers. Their father Leon Ellman is a legend in the business, and along with his sons Neil and Lance, they grew International Bedding Company, (IBC) into a top 10 bedding producer. When my brother Jeff and I sat down with the Ellman’s in Florida, we knew within a few minutes that we were with the right people.

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Some of our sheep on the farm in Yorkshire.

Simon and his team at Harrison Spinks have done an incredible job of building what I think is hands down the most interesting story in the bedding business. (See that for yourself at Spinkandedgarusa.comAnyone can say that they use high quality materials in their beds but only Spink and Edgar can say that they own the farm that grows them. Last week I talked about how important “story” is when it comes to building value in the products you sell. This story is unique, compelling, romantic, and sits alone in many ways. Now the Bed Brothers as I am calling the Quinn/Ellman connection, (think blood brothers, get it?)  will use our combined skill sets to bring the Spink and Edgar heritage and story to retailers here in the U.S.

We know we have a lot to do to earn the right with retailers out there, but at the end of the day they are in the same business we are all in which is to sell products and turn a profit. Here is what I know. Some people are just fine doing the same things and telling the same stories. The good news here is that budgeting for most companies working in that comfort zone is easier since all you have to do is use industry projections as your guard rails. We hope to attract the attention of retailers that look at themselves as leaders in the market and are constantly looking for a bigger better way to sell profitable categories and products within those categories. We think our innovative approach from the farm to the bedroom will give retailers the story that will give them what they need.

We are in Vegas and we are fired up to see our industry friends. On behalf of the Bed Brothers I want to thank everyone for the support and the positive feedback. The reception to what we are doing has been outstanding and we are grateful.

 

 

 

 

What’s Your Story?

“Our featured wine this evening is a very nice gewürztraminer that is made from grapes that are grown in caves in a remote part of southern Italy. Monks would tend to these grapes on a daily basis caring for their every need. The monks will only feed the grapes water that has melted off of a glacier ice cap in Alaska, because that water carries more nutrients than normal rainwater might deliver. How many bottles would you like this evening?” That my friends is how I sold more wine than anyone else in the five star fine dining establishment that I worked at in Houston, Texas. The sales pitch you just read is full of BS just to make this a little more entertaining but I swear to you, we featured a wine with a background something like this and it sold like crazy at $200 a bottle.  Why? Because of the story.

 Whats Your Story?

Marketing your products/company is all about your story, how well you tell it, who you tell it to, and how often you get it in front of your intended audience.  If you have not already seen it, you need to read the article by Mark Kinsley  giving us some great examples of companies like T-Mobile, Apple, and Gallery Furniture and how they have successfully used story telling to market themselves to their audience.  Consumers love stories because they bring products and people to life, and give dimension to the products and services you are promoting.

Why do companies like Mercedes, Rolex, or Ralph Lauren get so much more for the products that they sell? They have done an incredible job of talking about and building value in what they do through effective story telling. If you are going to buy a bicycle for $10,000, would you do so if it were sitting on the shelf at Wal-Mart next to the other $200 options? They both have pedals and they both transport you from point A to point B don’t they? In this case you can read about this Dura Ace bike  and see why some believe that $10,000 is a reasonable price to pay.  But for you to agree to buy one, you are likely going to need to do some serious reading about it before hand or speak to a skilled rsa that can walk you through all of the reasons that you absolutely have to have this particular bike. If the story isn’t good enough, or if its not told well, they won’t move a single unit.

Think about the products you are selling to your customers. Has the manufacturer done a good job of building a great story for you to tell?  How old is the story that they want you to communicate? Has it been sufficiently refreshed to keep it interesting in the market or is it the same old thing, just recycled with a few tweaks but sold to you as something NEW and EXCITING?

Consider the mattress market today. ISPA tells us that about 20% of the dollars happen above $2,000 in queen, or something close to that last time I checked. We can debate ISPA numbers another time but consider this…is it only 20% because the consumer out there just won’t spend that kind of money on a bed OR because we have not done our job in giving them a good enough reason to spend more money?  Is a new memory foam formulation enough to get the consumer excited? Is simply telling the consumer that this particular bed is hand crafted enough? Aren’t they all hand crafted? I suggest to you that we are underselling the consumer today and with the right story we can actually convince more consumers out there that spending a lot of money on your mattress makes more sense than buying a $10,000 bike.

This Wednesday we will be issuing a press release on our story about our products and company and I hope that you connect with it. We feel that the story is new, compelling, fun to share and easy to tell. It is something that is unique and to my knowledge, nothing like it has ever been sold in the United States. It is not marketing BS and addresses a fast growing consumer trend. When told right, it will justify higher dollars at the register, which means more profit for the retailer and more commission for the rsa.

I am looking forward to hearing your feedback and running into old friends at market in Vegas next Sunday. When I do see you, remind me to tell you what happened to the fancy restaurant I mentioned at the beginning of this post. THAT is a funny story.

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DON’T MISS THIS EVENT!

PS  DO NOT FORGET that the Ante for Autism event is Saturday evening, January 17th at 7PM at the Golden Nugget. Doug Krinsky and his excellent team of host are raising money to defeat autism so PLEASE join them if you can. Learn more HERE.

 

 

Beat Down Your Fear

Like you, I am doing some self evaluation to figure out where I am going to spend my time trying to improve myself in 2015. In my case there are many things I want to work on, so it is going to be hard getting to a list that is both manageable and realistic, but I will get there.

 Beat Down Your Fear

As I work on my goals this year I realize that I am I placing myself at risk in 2015 having left my job to create a new company. In addition to the risk, there is a lot of uncertainty.  Risk and uncertainty feel a lot a like but they are entirely different according to Seth Godin, and I agree. I know that there is some risk built in to what I am doing, but really, my fear and concern come more from not knowing how this is all going to go down.

I know that I have done my homework. I know that there is nothing like what we are bringing to market and that retailers are going to love an opportunity to make a lot of money on profitable price points. I know that my partners are incredible people and that together we can do anything we set our minds to. I know that our story will be compelling to the rsa and the consumer which will drive our sales.  But I am UNCERTAIN as to how it will all play out so with that, comes fear.

It is normal that we fear what we don’t know so embrace that part, but don’t let it paralyze you from the next step this year. Do some work to identify and then to mitigate any risk that could exist, but don’t let the unknown stop you from doing something great in 2015. Respect the risk on any given thing, but beat down the concerns related to uncertainty and see where it takes you.

“Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.”

William Congreve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Bonus Blog

When you are hanging around the living room with your family and friends during the holiday and are looking for something fun to do, I have a great idea for you. It’s called Kahoot; and it’s free! (Thank you big sister Cari Quinn with Tempur-Pedic for this awesome idea.)

Kahoot is a game that was developed for the classroom but there is a great application for group trivia. You can create your own list of questions or choose from a list of sports, history, entertainment etc. The more you get right the more you score and the faster you answer the better you rank. At the end of each question it scores the fastest correct answer in your group and shows you a leader board after each response so you always know who is winning. (Said differently, it shows you the score so you can talk enormous amounts of trash to your family and friends once you smoke them on the answer.) You can team up or you can play alone. All you need is a device that is connected to the internet in some way to act as your personal remote control. (For a complete run down on rules and how to play visit their blog HERE.)

 Christmas Bonus Blog

 

Go to Kahoot! HERE and sign up. Then gather your gamers around a computer screen or television and get ready to rumble! (TIP: We have Apple TV so we projected a mirror image of that computer on to a larger television screen so all could see well and nobody complained that Uncle Fred’s head was too fat to see around!)

Trust me on this one, it is EASY to set up and we had a blast playing it. We actually learned a few things in the process so give it a try.

If you have not yet read my Christmas Blog please do so, it’s called Great Things Ahead.

Once again I wish you all the very best Christmas and Happy New Year. Don’t forget to make it to church this week and celebrate the REAL reason for CHRISTmas.