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Mattress Wars

When you think of epic battles David vs. Goliath comes to mind. How about the Imperial Forces and Darth Vader taking on the Rebels and the Jedi. Mayweather vs. McGregor? Coke vs. Pepsi. Shift gears to the mattress industry and we have our own little war taking shape….Mattress Firm vs. Tuft and Needle.

When Daehee Park and JT Marino first launched Tuft and Needle one of their primary messages was that mattress retailers are greedy. A strong message for sure, but if you are going to try to take market share in a very competitive industry with a totally different way of buying a bed, you need to be bold. (Remember the early days for Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic and how they attacked innerspring mattresses saying that it was old technology and bad for the consumer?) In response to this, or maybe in response to all bed in a box companies, Mattress Firm launched this campaign, Don’t Get Boxed In.  The gloves were off, and the battle had begun.

Tuft and Needle came out recently with their $1 million dollar “Mattress Bet” which encourages their customers to buy a bed from them and if they aren’t completely satisfied they can return it, and receive $100 towards the purchase of their new bed but they have to buy it at Mattress Firm.  Wow.  Tuft and Needle is saying is that they have so much confidence in their own product that they can keep them sold, and that the consumer won’t find anything as good at $100 more at the Mattress Firm. So what’s the upside for Tuft & Needle?

  1. They advertise a message that is so strong that it takes some of the doubt away from a consumer that might be on the fence, which will drive their sales. People are attracted to confidence.
  2. It gives some business writers good fodder for earned media and gets people talking about them. Maybe even blogging about them. Yep.
  3. Allows them to be creative and support the narrative that retailers are greedy.
  4. People, in general, like the underdog and this has a little of that feel to it, further advancing the idea that these bed in a box guys are disruptive.

If you’re on the sidelines watching this you might wonder what Mattress Firm is going to do to respond to such a direct challenge. If Tuft & Needle calls you out like this you have to address it right? It may not be that easy. Some of the conversation at the Mattress Firm corporate office is probably going something like this; “We should go after them, we can’t just let them say this stuff.” “We should attack them hard, continue to talk about the fact that you can’t test out a Tuft & Needle bed before trying it, talk about the pain of having to return it, hit our white glove delivery experience, exclusive brand name products, wide selection etc.” But if you’re Mattress Firm do you legitimize it all by even acknowledging it? The Tuft and Needle raving fan base is also pretty aggressive at defending them in the social space so do you want to deal with the negative that comes with that? Are you better off letting Tuft and Needle do their thing, hijack some buzz, and try to beat them with your in-store experience? If you spend your own ad dollars or take up any space on your website reacting to it, do you just fuel what they are doing in the first place?

I think that this was a creative approach for Tuft and Needle and there is very little downside for them. They get to take on the big boys and create some interest at the same time. Will it cost them some money from consumers that want to get a free $100 promotion? It could. If you were a Mattress Firm rsa with price sensitive customer would you encourage someone to sign up for the bet, buy the Tuft and Needle bed so they can return it and get a free $100 to spend on something else in your store? Possibly but unlikely.

This falls under my belief that competition is a good thing. It helps Tuft & Needle do something new and different that fits their brand approach to the consumer. I also think that Mattress Firm can use it to show consumers how people are going after them because that’s what people do to the industry leader. Either way, it creates some excitement.

What do you think, should Mattress Firm react? Who will win this battle of wits?




3 thoughts on “Mattress Wars

  1. The “join the revolution” marketing style has been a fixture in many industries since I was a kid in The 80s. It will Always appeal to and draw in the young demographic. I think as people get older and more experienced you recognize this type marketing for what it is.

    It’s interesting enough to watch it from a distance, particularly from inside the industry, but it will get boring soon enough. Law of diminishing returns will set in. I think Mat Firm can just stay the course. The guys who want us to believe they’re ‘not greedy’ will sell the company for a billion dollars and go into some other marketing endeavor and Mat Firm will keep opening more stores than are needed.

    I just wish that companies would spend as much time actually innovating product as they do innovating the marketing of the same old mattress constructions.

    1. Thanks for the comments and for reading Nate. There is no doubt that this is a growing trend and over time trends will soften, the question is, when does it hit that point? At a 10% share of the market? Maybe a 15% share? I have a guess but nobody knows. Funny thing is, that this trend has been building for the last decade and the product has been in the market being tested and so far it is obvious there is a consumer for it. Great thoughts here, I appreciate you sharing them!!!

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