As part of the sponsored message, James was going on about why Casper is such an incredible mattress. He talked about the great experience he’s had with it and how it’s so easy to get one because they ship directly to your door.
I have this bad habit of dissecting every advertising message I come across (drives my wife crazy).
So as I’m listening to this I couldn’t help but wonder, “how in the world are they generating a positive ROI from this campaign?”
There’s no reason to believe that Question of the Day listeners are more likely to be in the market for a mattress than someone off the street.
To me, this was the digital equivalent of a billboard ad. Here’s a company that doesn’t know what they’re doing but has cash to burn. So instead of coming up with an actual strategy, they decided to run some podcast sponsorships.
After a few minutes of casting judgment on the entire company for their waste of marketing dollars, I got over it and moved on with the show.
A few nights later, I picked up my Kindle for some bedtime reading. And whose advertisement do I see on the home screen?
The Casper Mattress.
Now I’m really upset. Apparently, this wasn’t just a one off podcast sponsorship.
These ads were part of broader advertising program that included podcast sponsorships, Kindle ads, and probably some Google and Facebook advertising.
What was wrong with these people? I was NOT in the market for a mattress. They were wasting their money serving up ads to people like me.
This upset me as a consumer. But it upset me more as a marketer. Wasting ad dollars with poor targeting is bad for everyone.
I went to sleep angry. But eventually, I got over the Kindle ad as well.
Three weeks later, I suddenly found myself in the market for a mattress.
I received news that relatives from out of town were going to pay us a visit.
My wife and I had just moved houses a few months back and we hadn’t setup the guest room yet (which was an extra room that we didn’t have in the previous house).
All of a sudden, I was a qualified mattress buyer.
Deeply amused by the irony of it all, I immediately Googled “casper mattress” to check out their website.
After just a quick scan of their website, I was sold. Casper’s website addressed all the pain points associated with buying a mattress:
- Don’t know which mattress to pick? Casper only has one.
- Don’t want to go to a store? You can order online and have it delivered.
- Don’t like the mattress? Casper offers a 60 night trial.
This was music to my ears.
The thought of going to a mattress store to aimlessly sit on dozens of mattresses and entertain a salesperson with our “mattress needs” made me shudder.
Not to mention the hassle of bringing it home.
Casper was the perfect solution. It would take no more than 5 minutes to order the mattress online and it would get delivered in a box straight to my door.
At this stage, I’d all but made up my mind that I was going to buy a Casper mattress.
But before I pulled the trigger, I thought I’d quickly check if there were any other companies with competing products.
So I went back to Google and searched for “casper alternatives”.
This is where things took a turn for the worse for Casper.
I came across a company called Leesa, one of Casper’s direct competitors.
Leesa’s offering was very similar. They addressed all the common pain points like Casper did. But according to a few blogger reviews, the materials used in Leesa’s mattress were slightly superior. And the price was comparable.
As a father of two, I figured it made sense to buy the mattress with less toxic material. So I ended up buying the Leesa.
Despite the fact that I didn’t end up buying a Casper, I learned a number of good marketing lessons from the buying experience.
#1 – Advertising still works.
The classic television advertising model can still work.
- Find a unique selling proposition.
- Wrap it in a compelling message.
- Find a cost effective way to get that message in front of buyers.
There are many ways that process can go terribly wrong. And it’s certainly more difficult to do now than it was in the television era.
But the fundamentals of good advertising still hold up.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t in the market for a mattress when I heard Casper’s ad, Casper was the first brand that came to mind when I eventually had a need for a mattress.
What more could an advertiser ask for?
#2 – Experience can trump product.
The ad is only the beginning of the marketing process. It’s the tip of the arrow that hooks a buyer into learning more about your product or service.
The real fun begins when a buyer begins researching your offering, usually by going to your website.
This is where Casper’s marketing really shines.
Casper knows that customers like me are not looking for “the perfect mattress”. We just want a mattress to sleep on. And we don’t want to spend hours researching online, wasting time going to stores, and hauling one home on top of our cars.
So instead of boring us with the features of the mattress, they focus a lot of their messaging on selling the experience of buying a mattress through Casper.
In my case, the experience was the selling point. Not the mattress itself.
#3 – Small differentiators can make a big difference.
The mattress industry is a $14 billion market in the US alone.
Traditionally, it’s been dominated by a few big brands — the two biggest of which are Tempur-Sealy and Serta Simmons — who pour millions of dollars into research and product development.
But new startups like Casper, Leesa and others have managed to carve out their own small slice of that market — catering to a segment that cares more about ease and convenience than finding “the perfect mattress”.
Even within that segment, there’s plenty of room to differentiate.
At face value, Casper and Leesa offer products that are largely indistinguishable. There are only a few subtle qualities that differentiate the two mattresses.
I bought a Leesa mattress because I felt more confident in the quality of the materials they use. But someone else, who is less concerned about material, could’ve just as easily opted for the Casper (and many do).
That’s a testament to the power of differentiation.
So are you a Casper? Or a Leesa?
You can be identical to your competitors in almost every way. And if you operate in a large industry, that’s probably the case (whether you admit it or not).
But that one small differentiator could make the difference between winning and losing a deal.
The key is knowing what differentiator matters to the clients you want to work with.