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The basic bedding and mattress brands that sell best are successful because vendors don't rest on their laurels. This special HFN report explores the spectrum of marketing and merchandising innovations that today's savvy manufacturers are using to make hot brands hotter -- and to increase brand awareness in target markets.

Branding matters. This is nowhere more true than in the bedding industry, where a mattress' name is its fortune. Since "share of mind is share of market," bedding manufacturers are redoubling their efforts to build brand awareness with a variety of tactics: humor, references to the firm's longevity, and appeals to health-consciousness among them.

In the "longevity" department, to celebrate the half-century mark of its Posturepedic line, Sealy kicked off the promotion for its Golden Anniversary Collection to dealers during the April High Point market. The collection represents a new product line for Sealy; floor samples started shipping in late May. According to Dave McIlquham, vice president of sales and marketing, the formal introduction for the Golden Anniversary Collection is set for July 4 weekend, which kicks off the key mattress selling period that runs through Labor Day.

"That is the total focal point of our summer promotional schedule on Posturepedic," McIlquham said.

"It's a new product, there's a lot of point-of-sale material; everything is focused around the 50th anniversary of Posturepedic. We've gotten tremendous placement on the product, which we expected. The results so far are meeting our expectations. I think we will exceed our sales plan for the Golden Anniversary promotion. I think our retailers are excited, too."

Sealy has dreamed up a range of promotional devices, including a golden 50th anniversary emblem, balloons, gold-and-black streamers, star cascades, buttons, banners, posters, ceiling danglers and bed-end cards.

Serta is in the midst of a year-long $23 million media campaign, most of it earmarked for television commercials. Its target audience is women in the 25 to 54 age range, with a growing emphasis on the pre-senior age segment that has disposable income and is still making major purchases.

"A majority of our dollars are spent on TV because we are looking to build our reach and to build awareness and preference for our brand," said Susan Ebaugh, Serta's vice president of advertising. "TV is still the most cost-effective, highest-reach medium, so we do a big television buy."

Serta's two dreamlike 30-second commercials run on three major networks in prime-time programming slots: Touched by an Angel, Home Improvement, 3rd Rock from the Sun and Chicago Hope. Daytime shows with Serta commercials include Oprah, General Hospital and Jeopardy. Serta also runs commercials on Lifetime, HGTV and A&E cable channels. Serta was a sponsor of this year's Academy Awards, its fifth year of advertising on a show that reaches more than 100 million viewers. For the Oscars, Serta provided commemorative cushions for fans seated on bleachers right outside the entrance.

Television doesn't reach everyone, so Serta runs four-page inserts in magazines targeted to affluent readers who aren't tied to the tube. Architectural Digest, House & Garden, Country Home, Bon Appetit, Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine all carry the ads.

"Our strategy for print in 1999 was what we are calling a `good living' strategy. Women, our primary target audience, aren't just reading books that involve home furnishings," Ebaugh said. "So we did a buy across several magazine categories that deal with good living."

Serta is in its third year of underwriting programs on National Public Radio, such as All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Fresh Air. Serta is positioned as a sponsor with a 10-second identification. "We have tended to buy the best shows," Ebaugh said. "NPR allows us to reach an even higher-end audience."

Simmons Co. has been leaning heavily on its humorous Leap of Faith television commercial, which it launched nationwide late last year. The taped segment is a commercial within a commercial. It reinforces Simmons' message that motion does not transfer across the bed to disturb a bedmate, thanks to the pocketed coils of its Beautyrest line.

In the new commercial, a couple in bed is seen watching the previous Simmons TV commercial in which a man drops a bowling ball on the mattress to prove that the impact won't make bowling pins set up on the mattress fall down. Inspired to test his own mattress, the husband climbs atop the TV and prepares to leap onto the bed. His wife warns him that they "don't have a Simmons Beautyrest," but he ignores her and jumps anyway, catapulting her into the air.

"If you've seen it 10 times, you still chuckle," said Don Hofmann, vice president of marketing. "That's the reaction we get from people. But as funny as it is, there is a carefully thought-out strategy behind it."

To wit: The new commercial is meant to bring the message of Simmons home by reinforcing the previous commercial. In the first commercial, people did not clearly associate the bowling-ball analogy with their own beds or their own sleeping comfort, according to Hofmann. "It was just a neat, novel device," Hofmann said. "But people never stopped to say, `Wow, that's me!' What we are trying to say to consumers is that, while you watch that bowling ball commercial, think about it. That's you, lying in bed, wondering if your partner's tossing and turning will bother you."

Simmons also uses these ads to support point-of-purchase displays, print advertising and other triggers that remind consumers of the commercials. "We take that image and put it in everything we do so that our retailers use it as well," Hofmann said. Simmons refers to this multimedia campaign as the "points-of-touch" concept. The reason a person shops at a certain place and buys certain brands is not just because of the advertising but because of all of the different places where the consumer sees that brand, including the signs on delivery trucks, according to Hofmann. "All these things make an impression. They increase the number of points of touch."

In promoting its Power Sleep model of Beautyrest, Simmons takes a different tack. This mattress, introduced earlier this year, is named after the title of the best-selling book by James B. Maas, a university professor who has extensively researched the importance of a good night's sleep -- and the consequences of not getting it.

Simmons sent Maas out on a media tour that included interviews on television and radio and in newspapers and magazines. It also involved speaking to key retailers, such as Gallery Furniture and Art Van.( In August, Maas is scheduled to visit Nebraska Furniture Mart to give interviews, a lecture and sign books. ) "This is a way to bring attention to the importance of undisturbed sleep," Hofmann said. "If we get the message out that being interrupted in your sleep is a bad thing, and then you see a commercial that says this mattress won't interrupt your sleep, you can put one and one together."

Maas does not overtly pitch the Simmons product during his lectures, according to Hofmann.

Spring Air Co.'s TV commercial, featuring Whopper the Kodiak bear, has drawn kudos from consumers and increased brand awareness, according to Larry McKay, senior vice president, sales and marketing. The 30-second bear commercial features Whopper, in Goldilocks fashion, moving from bed to bed in a house until he finds a mattress, a Spring Air, that is "just right."

A 20-second version drives home the same point but allows for a 10-second window for a local slant. TV personality Vanna White, who has been spokeswoman for Spring Air since the mid-'80s, is being phased out as the bear image gets promoted more. The commercial is the cornerstone of Spring Air's $5 million television campaign. "We are doing our bear commercial in a variety of ways," he said. The Spring Air licensee in the Tampa, Fla., area, for example, is using only the 30-second commercial in an effort to promote branding in the minds of consumers in the Fort Myers, Orlando, Daytona, Miami and Jacksonville markets.

But the Greensboro, N.C., licensee is taking a completely different approach. The advertising budget for that geographic area also includes local retailers in a branding effort to increase local business by running a 30-second spot featuring a 20-second film clip from Spring Air followed by a 10-second dealer identification. McKay said, "We customize that 10-second spot with the retailer to get his message across." The retailers include the Famous-Barr department store chain, Rockaway Bedding Centers, HomeLife, J.C. Penney, Breuners Home Furnishings and Tema Furniture, a contemporary furniture store in Albuquerque, N.M.

In Massachusetts, Jordan's Furniture, a retailer of Spring Air products, did its own version of the bear commercial, which included the Tatelman brothers, partners in Jordan's.

Most, but not all, of the Spring Air campaign has been directed to television. R.C. Willey, the Utah-based retailer, ran a print advertisement of the Spring Air bear in Parade, an insert in the Sunday newspaper, in the spring.

When it comes to promotions, Kingsdown Inc. has been marching to a different drummer. "Kingsdown doesn't believe in a lot of consumer advertising," said Lee Sinclair, marketing director for Kingsdown. "We believe more in sales training, because you can spend a heck of a lot of money on advertising and all you are establishing is your name. We would rather put that money into product."

The company underwrites The People's Pharmacy, a call-in show with Joe and Terry Graedon that is broadcast weekly on National Public Radio. The Graedons, a husband-and-wife team, field calls regarding medicines and herbal remedies. "The listeners are already thinking about their health," said Sinclair. "Kingsdown is not only exposing itself to a health-conscious audience but one that is well-educated and more affluent and eager to experiment with improvements in their lifestyle," she added. "That is the Kingsdown demographic."

Kingsdown also targets consumers through print ads in the bridal books Elegant Bride and Dolce Vita. "We know the bridal market is an older market now," Sinclair said. "Generally the couple is at the point of life where they are ready to make an investment in their sleep system."

King Koil does no national television or radio advertisements but has been shipping four-color circular programs to its dealers for distribution through the mail or as inserts in newspapers. Most of the promotional efforts rest at the local level, according to Michael Kehnast, vice president of marketing and sales.
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Author:Kunkel, Karl
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 28, 1999
Previous Article:TEXTILE BRIEFS.

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