Tuesday, January 28, 2020

What's In a Name? Sealy Response Premium Summer Street Plush Mattress

Who in their right mind wants to buy a "street" mattress?

I was looking though a BJ's wholesale club circular that arrived in the mail today.  It is an interesting piece of marketing and psychology.  On one page, there is an ad for a BJ's VISA card, and the accompanying image is disturbing - it shows a car with an apparent homeless man leaning out the window wearing a Russian hat.  In the front seat, also halfway out the window is a child with oddly-colored glasses.  I couldn't understand what the image had to do with credit cards, when I realized it was just one of these vaguely disturbing images that advertisers like to use to get you to look at their ad - images you can't turn away from, like a bloody SUV wreck, or Joe Camel's penis face.

The entire brochure was a fascinating example of how marketers "get" to you - in this case, offering "discounts" on items with "coupons" that tell you how much you are "saving" but not actual prices.  If it weren't for the cheap Cava, we'd cancel our membership already.  Note that Sam's Club doesn't use these "coupon" come-ons as BJ's does.  Their selection is not the same, however, and when they say they sell in bulk, they aren't kidding.

But getting back to the brochure, in the back was an ad for the "Sealy Response Premium Summer Street Plush Mattress" which struck me as a pretty darn long name for a mattress, and a rather odd one, too.  Street Mattress?  Not something I would think of in selling an upscale brand.   Besides, I've already had one experience with a mattress in the street - I'm not ready for another one.  But it got me to thinking, someone was paid - and not a trivial amount of money - to come up with this name.  And in the mattress game, naming is important, as you are in a now-competitive business and trying to sell a product that costs a few hundred at best, for a several hundred, if you can swing it.

A reader noted long ago, "what's the deal with mattress stores?" and articles have been written about this. There are many in some small towns, with their yellow, orange, and red signs advertising perpetual sales (or perpetual going-out-of-business sales) and apparently no one in the stores.  As one article profiled, many of these outlets have salesmen on commission, and low overhead, so if they sell one mattress a week, they make money.   The key is, of course, they are selling a mattress worth $500 on a good day, for well over $1000, sometimes in the thousands, particularly if you factor in the interest charges on the loans they offer.   And yes, people will pay that much for a mattress, once the persuasive salesman is done with them.

We live in a interesting era - mattresses have gone high tech and very expensive, with motors and pumps and memory foam and whatnot.   At the same time, online sellers are bundling mattresses into tubes and selling them cheaply for home delivery.   Turns out that a mattress isn't all that expensive to make, and what's more, it is a commodity item.  And yes, we may end up in the market for one down the road, as our tempurpedic is over ten years old, and starting to take a "set" particularly on my side.  And yes, we like that mattress, but likely paid way too much for it (salesman, again).  Today, there are plenty of knock-offs on the market, so it may be worthwhile looking around.  The problem with a mattress is the same problem with tires - you buy a crappy set of noisy, poor-handling, and poor-riding tires for your car, and you are stuck for years with them (although I saw someone take a set back recently - I was surprised the dealer let them do that!).  With a mattress, I doubt that would happen.  So you buy a crappy mattress, you may have to live with it for years.

The commodization of the mattress business may explain one reason why Sealy felt they needed five names for their mattress.  It sort of reminds me of the dying days of the old GM, when car names became longer and longer.  You no longer bought an Oldsmobile, but an Oldsmobile Cutlesss Ciera Custom Coupe Landau Brougham De-Luxe - or something like that.  Long names are a tacit admission that the name has more content than the product.

What is even odder - to me, anyway - is that Sealy has multiple lines of mattresses, each with its own convoluted name.  There is the "Response" series, and within that, the "Premium" line (with Corinthian Leather no doubt) and the "Performance" line (which requires 92 octane gasoline).  And then there is the "Essential" line - the Vega of the series, or at least the Chevy Nova.  You know, the kind of car where the clock is replaced by a "starburst" design on the dash, just to remind you what a cheap bastard you were for not ordering the clock.   Kids today - they won't understand that reference - every car today has air conditioning for chrissakes!

I get that they want to sell a "good, better, best" line, just as Sears used to do.   You offer an el-cheapo to get them into the door, and then upsell them to the mid-level line, which the consumer thinks is a good deal, because at least they didn't splurge on that $1200 job.   And yea, every so often, you get a chump who will buy the top-of-the-range model, financing it on time.  But I don't understand the "Summer Street" aspect of it - it sounds like a feminine hygiene product for the homeless.  Summer Street for her - keep smelling fresh... like a summer street!

What was odd about the Sealy site was the "reviews" section, which turned out to be comments extracted from warranty registrations.  More than one person noted that they were not reviewing the product but merely inserting required comments and random answers, just to register their mattress for warranty coverage - or in one case, just for a box spring.  The following is a "review" by a consumer of the mattress:
Comments about Sealy Response Innerspring Essentials Collection Tight Top Cushion Firm

I only purchased a boxpring. There was not anywhere on the registration page to register it, so I had to put in mattress information for it to work. The serial number is for the boxpring only. 
Yes, I would recommend to a friend
Neededboxspringonly  - Lancaster, SC
That's a new one on me - requiring purchasers to review your product before they provide warranty coverage.   If you give only one star, do you not get warranty coverage?   Sounds like a facetious question, but that was my experience with the Ford dealer.  They offered to pay for new shock absorbers , but only if I gave them a five-star (highest rating) review.  I guess they get a bonus based on their net promoter score.

Note also the convoluted name: Response Innerspring Essentials Collection Tight Top Cushion Firm.  They must have someone working there full-time coming up with this nonsense.

What an amazing time to be in the marketing business!  What with all the computer tracking, surveys, monitoring, and so-called "AI" and whatnot, they can really get into your head these days.

If we let them.

UPDATE:  Mattresses, like chairs and bicycle seats, are the most comfortable when FIRM.  People think that a soft mattress is more comfortable or that big floaty pillow-tops are better (the French in particular seem fond of this). But such mattresses just cause you to sink in, and you end up swimming in it.   Give me a nice, firm, rock-hard mattress any day.   A manly mattress!