creativitymarketingmattressesproduct development

Serta’s Cheap-Ass Plan to Hijack the Buzz

In case you haven’t heard, at Las Vegas Furniture Market, Serta had a 40-foot banner hanging from the side of the building that said, “It’s Time to get iComfort, Not a cheap-ass knock off.”

Boy did that stir the pot!

You heard people saying it was unnecessary and that Serta should have more class. Others pointed out that Serta could have brought a strong message without using the words “cheap-ass.” Some couldn’t believe Serta would connect ITS brand with something so juvenile.

Regardless of the opinions, here’s the reality:

  • Before you even got in the front door, people were talking about that banner. Serta successfully hijacked nearly every conversation. The only thing people wanted to talk about in the halls was that banner and they wanted to know your reaction to it.
  • Was it really so bad? If you put this banner in context, meaning in Las Vegas, was it really all that offensive or out of place? You see half-naked women on billboards everywhere you look. In context, the Serta banner was pretty mild.
  • Did you catch the Super Bowl? If so, did you see the Chevy commercial portraying the end of the world? It was a little smash mouth and came under fire (mostly by Ford fans), but the majority of people loved it. After walking the halls at Market, I found the same was true for the Serta banner: Most people loved it.

At the end of the day, if you are making a decision about the 40-foot banner, I think you have to ask, “Will this banner have a net negative affect?” Given that it was on display for a trade audience only, I think it did exactly what it was designed to do: hijack the buzz. From a marketing perspective, I don’t think the message lines up with the iComfort brand, but it does line up with Serta CEO Bob Sherman.

Bob told me his team delivered the banner idea as a joke, along with a few other concepts. He liked it so much he went with it. When I saw the banner, I thought to myself, “Rick Anderson with Tempur-Pedic has to be reading that saying to himself, ‘Ugh Bob, YOU are the cheap-ass knock off!’” Sure enough, in the Furniture Today panel discussion where Bob and Rick shared the stage, Bob acknowledged that sentiment poking fun at himself and Serta. It made for a great moment, and the crowd loved it!

I think it was funny. I am not saying it connects to any overall brand strategy, but it was FUNNY and I think everybody should lighten up a little. After all, it’s Vegas baby!

What do you think about Serta’s banner? Tasteless or genius? Leave your comments below.

P.S. On a side note, when the team from Symbol Mattress saw the iComfort banner, they went to work that very afternoon and had a sign made up that said, “The best cheap-ass knock off in the industry.” Symbol put the banner on the company’s mattress display in the atrium. The banner lasted less than a day. SOMEBODY stole it! Great thought, but maybe next time.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the thinking of the company I work for, or anyone else with whom I am affiliated. Except my wife of course, who is good at telling me what not to say.

14 thoughts on “Serta’s Cheap-Ass Plan to Hijack the Buzz

  1. We at the retail level have worked very hard to change our image that mattress RSA’s and the mattress industry are nothing more than as “Used Car Salesmen!” This banner was a relic of the past. I found it boring not titillating!

  2. Man are you on the “Mark”!
    Had a picture on my iPhone to our team as soon as I got off the bus.
    Not good, but GREAT marketing in the right place at the RIGHT time.
    Been in the business for over 40 years and still can’t figure out why this industry has their shorts in such a bind over a little tongue-in-cheek reality. At my first national sales meeting in 1969 with Simmons we talked about an ad campaign based on being the world’s largest marufacturer of playground equipment. Soumds as good today as then.
    Go for it Bob! Looks like Serta has the MoJo.

  3. This campaign is precisely the correct messaging for the context of the audience. As the author indicates, it’s Vegas! It would appear that this message drew so many negative responses because the majority of people within the mattress industry have fallen victim to a long history of mediocrity in their advertising.
    I applaud their view, focus and willingness to turn heads.
    See what Novo Textiles is doing to contribute to the advancement of fresh ideas.

  4. Wow!
    anybody reading this banner may have inadvertently thought that Serta had invented the gel foam in the first place!

  5. Good or bad, the halls at Las Vegas Furniture Market were filled with people talking about Serta’s banner. Keep doing the same things over and over, and the mattress industry will experience a slow but decisive march toward irrelevance. Great advertising doesn’t always make people feel comfortable. It grabs your attention and makes you think (and talk) about the product. Mission accomplished Serta.

  6. Creating a buzz and appearing buzzed are two entirely different things. I am not sure that Serta achieved the desired effect from most who saw the ad. Market leaders usually take a higher, if not more refined approach to deliver their message. But then again, at last count, Serta is not the market leader in any category. So I guess all is fair play for and with them.

  7. While Serta may not be the “market leader in any category as stated above, Id prefer to be the number two or three guy in every category than to lead in one and trail big time in all of the others. To my point, Newt was the leader in South Carolina but looking who’s getting all the press today, Santorum.

    Super Bowl teams rarely lead in all categories. It comes down to the team that is near the top in most categories. Serta certainly qualifies.

  8. In good taste of not, the one thing that cannot be debated is the launch of a new brand that captivates the market so much in a year’s time that such a claim holds water and credability.

    That is quite an accomplishment in this or any industry.

  9. I think Serta accomplished marketing genius status. Whether you agree or not with the content, think about the effects. If you had never heard of I-Comfort, you were talking about it. If you had heard of I-Comfort you were still talking about it. Marketing is all about top of mind awareness. Serta certainly accomplished that. Serta created talk, excitement, interest or even a memorable chuckle with this stunt. Mattress advertising has become so “locked in the box” and frankly boring, that its refreshing to see some out of the box thinking. Agree or not with the content, the genuis behind it can’t be denied. Is this something for the public? Probably not, but for the audience they were attempting to attract, it was effective.

  10. That is fabulous! I also love the knock off, the best cheap ass mattress etc. ! As someone who tries to sell iComforts any time I can I say bring it on!

  11. I think the whole gel gimmick is a cheap knock off of what visco/true memory foam is about…can’t wait for this marketing spin to pass.

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