No Consumer Left Behind

Remember when you were in elementary school and the policeman came in for assembly and spoke to you about safety, which was always followed by the fireman wearing the Smokey the Bear t-shirt, who was followed by the local doctor talking about how important sleep is? How about your life science teachers in middle school and high school constantly talking about how important sleep was to peak performance. If that wasn’t enough my college professors were always in our face about lifestyle, and how we needed to make sleep a priority as we were getting ourselves ready to be competitive in the real world.  I won’t even get into how sick and tired I am of going to the doctor where they are constantly on me about eating right, exercising more, and sleeping better. Are you relating to any of this? Well me neither because NONE OF IT EVER HAPPENED!

 No Consumer Left Behind

Education should be a big part of what we do because sleep is not valued the same way nutrition and exercise are when it comes to making that connection to quality of life. Yes people value sleep there is no doubt, but the average person doesn’t know a lot about sleep health and they certainly are not teaching anything to their kids. Why do we insist on drinking bottled water these days? When the Quinn’s are at a sporting event at school and my kids want money for a bottle of water and I tell them to get a drink from the fountain, they look at me like I am asking them to drink from the river. Nothing researched here but my recollection of that industry was that Amway invented a home water filtration system, so to drive demand, they had their multi level marketing team share the story about how bad tap water was. (There are likely many other contributors here but this works to make the following point.) They educated the public that our water wasn’t clean enough. Today that industry sells over $12 billion dollars of bottled water which equates to over 10 billion gallons of water each year.

What are you doing to educate people on the importance of sleep to quality of life? From those lesson comes the ability to market the solutions to bad sleep which are pillows, sheets, lighting solutions, and oh yes, MATTRESSES. If the perceived need isn’t there to the degree that you want it to be, sometimes you need to manufacture it. How many bedding companies/retailers send their sales force out to our local schools to lead these kind of talks? What is being done in the education system to advance the idea that sleep is important? What if we all started with the kids and did something to educate them on what a big deal sleep health is? I bet they grow up to value their sleep equipment in a different way. What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section or on LinkedIn.

BIG SHOUT OUT to Mr. Mark Kinsley, the other half of Dos Marcos and head Sleep Geek. He was nice enough to interview me for their podcast on my new venture bringing Spink and Edgar mattresses to the United States. We had a great time doing it so if you are interested in the how and why of what we are up to, give it a listen. It’s called Sheering Sheep For Fun and Profit.

 

What Would Your Super Bowl Ad Look Like?

Every year most of us gather at the neighbors house, bring our favorite 7 layer dip, order up some wings, open a cold beer and watch the Super Bowl. This year we got to see an incredible game with a horrible ending; if you are a Seahawks fan that is. (Sorry Scott Smalling, maybe next year my friend.) Some of the Super Bowl ads went the same direction, great idea but with a horrible execution ending in failure.

 What Would Your Super Bowl Ad Look Like?

If you wanted to have your spot seen this year by over 111.3 million fans (largest Super Bowl audience EVER), then it would have cost you about $4 million for a .30 second spot or $8 million for a .60. That is a lot of eyeballs watching your commercial and the great thing about creating a Super Bowl ad, is that you are more likely for someone to see your commercial because of all the hype. (What other television program makes that big a deal out of watching their commercials?)

A few that I liked in no particular order: (You can view them all and vote for your favorites HERE.)

  1. Viagra pill from Fiat. Fun commercial that had you wondering where the story was going to take you, ending on a hero shot of the car. They made this fun to watch and I thought the casting was perfect for the older couple.
  2. Doritos came out with their “Crash the Super Bowl” contest ad called”Middle Seat.”  Scott Zabielski, a graduate student from University of Southern California, was the Doritos consumer that won the $1 million. Great idea here with the perfect formula. Make it funny, include cute baby, feature beautiful girl. Done. Winner.
  3. The Snickers ad using the Brady Bunch show as a backdrop was awesome. For starters I used to love watching the Brady Bunch as a kid (stop judging me), and second, the contrast of the ax yielding bad guy with Mr. and Mrs. Brady worked great. I also loved seeing a cameo by my man Nucky from Boardwalk Empire which I referenced last week.

My big question to you is, what would your Super Bowl ad look like? Pretend for a minute that you have one shot at reaching 111 million people. What would you say? Would you tell everyone that you can discount your products by 50%? Would you lead with a free box spring, or give away something even more valuable like a adjustable bed base or a 50″television? If you had 30 seconds to build value in who you are and what you do, wouldn’t you try to include something about how you can improve people’s lives with your products? I know one thing, you would likely gather your team and be very careful to first identify what is so compelling about what you do, and then you would look for a creative way to tell that story. You might even hire someone to help you produce such a spot, making sure that you took great care with every second you had. (This makes a lot of sense given the fact that every second cost you about $133,333.)

If that approach is right for the Super Bowl, isn’t it also right for your website, ads, trade promotions, social media content etc?

Q’s Views Challenge: Give me your idea on what a great mattress or sleep products ad would look like on the Super Bowl either as a manufacturer or a retailer. I can’t give you $1 million but I will feature your idea in my next blog. Share that in the comments section or on the LinkedIn thread in Mattress Industry Executives. Good luck!

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.