Ambitious Slumber: Sleep Number's New Campaign Aims For Competitive ZZZs

In a new campaign starring actress Gabrielle Union and NBA great Dwyane Wade, Sleep Number encourages people to "Sleep Next Level." The idea is to  encourage "everyday achievers" to sleep better, getting more out of each night's rest. Kevin Brown, Sleep Number's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, tells D2C Insider how the new effort fits into its broader marketing strategy.

D2C Insider: The new spots, from 72 and Sunny, are intriguing. The famously competitive Gabrielle Union asks the big question: “Why do we leave so much untapped potential on the table?” How did you zero in on that as the idea of next-level sleep?

Kevin Brown: What makes the spots even more fun is that Wade and Union were customers before this campaign. They're such a dynamic couple, and much of the banter in the ads came right from them.

In many ways, it's a continuation of work we've been doing with other athletes and the NFL. But this "Sleep Next Level" platform will take us into the future. We've got an NFL-specific component coming this fall. We're targeting people we call achievers trying to make the most of every hour of their day. So why not make the most of each night's rest, too? It's about sleep quality and the evolution of a story we've already been telling,

D2C Insider: A challenge in your industry is how seldom people buy mattresses. Is it once every seven years?

Brown: Our latest research says it's more like eight, so yes, that's a long replacement cycle. What's unique about our brand is that we're all about individuality. A core appeal of next-gen smart bed is that you can individualize each side of the bed for you and your partner. And every night is different. It's for people who understand the importance of quality sleep to their health and well-being. It's a wellness tool.

D2C Insider: What triggers a mattress purchase? Moving house? A nagging backache?

Brown: Yes, those are common. So we focus on end benefits, like relieving a partner's snoring or helping one sleep hotter or colder. You might want to sleep a little softer if you've had a hard workout today. And people understand that poor quality sleep is linked to health issues down the road.

D2C Insider: In the last 15 years, there's been an explosion of competition, most in direct channels like Sleep Number, including Casper, Purple, Nectar and Saatva. How do you fend them off?

Brown: We are the only smart bed in the ecosystem. We are differentiated on how we individually and effortlessly adjust to each of you. The other brands are either a foam bed, spring and coil, or some gel hybrid. So they don't adjust. And they don't have our technology, which tracks your heart rate, breathing rate and movement in bed. And we can then provide insights about circadian rhythm and peak sharpness. And you don't have to do anything. The bed does it for you.

D2C Insider: Many people have other devices, like an Oura ring or an Apple Watch, that do much of this. Do you consider them competitive?

Brown: We are ranked right up there with them. When people are asked about tech brands that improve their health, they name us right along with Peloton, Fitbit and Apple Watch. Our distinction is, we own the night. And we connect to Apple Health so that people can get a full 24-hour view. Many of our customers take advantage of that.

D2C Insider: Tell us about channels. You've got 670 stores, and about 12% of your total sales are through digital channels. Are you hoping to change that?

Brown: We prefer not to use the word "channel." We're focused on letting customers engage with us whenever and however it's best for them. The online part of our business is focused on educating people about the product, and 90% of all our customers do that. But many people then want to go to stores and try the mattress before buying it. And they may do that, then go home and complete the sale online. We don't care either way.

D2C Insider: You've got a robust loyalty program. How many are repeat customers?

Brown: Repeat and referrals are about half of our business. We're about lifelong relationships, not just a transaction. We want to make sure [the mattress] is installed in your bedroom correctly, and that you know how to use it.

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