Welcome to Will It Stick, a podcast hosted by Alexis and Melissa as they seek to break down the craziest marketing brand stunts and PR campaigns. From what sparked the idea, to whether the stunt proved successful, they take listeners on a journey of brand history and ROI. In this episode, they take a look at the mattress company Tuft & Needle. In less than 10 years after founding the company in 2012, Tuft & Needle has approximately $200 million in annual revenue. How did the pair convince customers to stop shopping the traditional way for mattresses?
It all began with two friends, Daehee Park and John-Thomas (JT) Marino, who quit their engineering jobs and each invested $3,000 to start the company. The idea came to JT while mattress shopping with his new wife, ultimately feeling dissatisfied with the experience and their purchase. Recounting the experience to his friend Daehee, the two began investigating the world of mattresses. They decided to create their own, super simple business: a single, high-quality foam mattress made in America and sold directly to consumers without the gimmicks or commission sales. They made $1 million in their first year alone, and the growth skyrocketed from there, hitting $42 million in 2014.
The campaign which ended up skyrocketing the brand was conceived in JT’s apartment with their VP of Marketing, Tim Hargis, in Phoenix. It became obvious the name Tuft & Needle was not concise enough for most marketing platforms, though they didn’t want to rebrand. Thus began one of the most aggressive campaigns most have ever seen, featuring headlines over a solid black billboard that read “Mattress stores are greedy” and “Honk if you think mattress stores are greedy”, directing customers to their website, TN.com. The ads were simple, straightforward, and seemed more like a PSA than an advertisement. Instantly, the brand’s ROAS went up significantly and overall customer acquisition cost decreased. The simple design, hard-hitting message, and easily remembered website domain all played into the success of the advertisements. This campaign is proof that extravagant imagery and slogans aren’t always the keys to effective marketing. In this instance, consumers were driven by their own curiosity triggered by T&N’s advertisements. The purchase of the premium TN.com domain was the real game-changer in making their OOH advertising more effective.
Tuft & Needle realized the marketing was working well to drive customers of all demographics to their site, but some customers were visiting the site but not purchasing the products. Instead of sticking to their original plan of being online-only, they decided to open an experience-based test showroom in Phoenix. The idea was to give people skeptical about purchasing a mattress online the opportunity to come to test them out first.
Mattress Firm, the largest mattress retailer in the U.S. filed a lawsuit against Tuft & Needle in 2017. In response, T&N ran a campaign in which customers were reimbursed and given an additional $100 if they chose to return their Tuft & Needle mattress and purchase a Mattress Firm mattress instead. Then, Mattress Firm released their own smear campaign, featuring billboards, commercials, and even an ice cream truck outside of the art museum. The campaign came back to bite them on Twitter, with loyal T&N customers swooping into their defense. So, will it stick? We think so!
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Check out some of the great articles we sourced to gather all the facts for this episode.
Read the Ink Magazine article here.
Read the Huffington Post article here.
Read AZ Big Media’s article here.
Listen to the Domain Name Wire podcast episode here.