What happens when a dramatically new merchandising concept is combined with superb advertising? Denver is about to find out!W
hen it comes to mattress advertising, Denver is much like any other city: it is a shark tank. Also, like any other city, almost all the mattress ads look alike. Until now. Before I unfold the details of how Kacey Fine Furniture is taking mattress marketing to a new level, let me set the stage.
The essential problem with weak retail mattress advertising begins with the mattress manufacturers. They come up with product innovations every year, and they do their best to make them exciting. At market they demonstrate these concepts and hand out expensive slick material loaded with consumer information and beautiful graphics. They offer incentives of all kinds, including co-op. But when it comes to advertising help on the print retail level, they run out of gas. The mattress companies are generally content to reproduce their national ads for retailers and make sure the co-op rules are designed to get their story across. They may furnish CDs with "all of their stuff" on it, but they are confusing and virtually inaccessible to the average retailer. If a retailer has a PC computer instead of a Mac, the CD material is usually completely unusable. So the retailer is reduced to running weak local ads that sell national mattress brands for every other retailer, using some point of sale displays, and handing out slick manufacturer brochures to customers who drop by. If a prospect does not happen to enter a store, they never get to see the powerful hand-out material that should be the retailer's "silent salesperson."
Even the Ads of Big Retailers Look Alike
The result of all of this is a jungle of retail mattress advertising that looks alike and sells brands such as Beautyrest, Posturepedic and Perfect Sleeper for everyone - not necessarily for the retailer who pays for the ads. Some of the newer retail advertising programs provided to retailers by manufacturers promote good sleep and use benefit headlines, but you can switch sigs on these ads and no one would know the difference, not even the store that ran them. As a result, retail mattress "specialists" have gained a foothold in every market, giving the impression that they can offer the same national products for less money. Or, that they can manufacture a mattress that is "just as good" and sell it for less because they are selling "directly."
There is no real incentive for most mattress manufacturers to do much about the retail advertising situation because they are successfully selling their products.
Retailers are left to fight it out over market share. Some of the better manufacturers would like to help furniture retailers, but they don't know retail advertising. Their agencies know even less about retail. Even in many of the larger furniture chains, advertising people of today are technical wizards, but they know little or nothing of the principles of persuasion in print. They rely on the dominance of sheer volume, full color and computer graphics. As a result, the retailer's most powerful media, the newspaper and direct mail, are used as if their pages were billboards. Good, trained writers gravitate to the big agencies or national mail order companies where there talents are valued. Sure, TV is great if you can afford to make six impressions on a customer to get your message across. But we know that very often the mute button is on during the time that commercials intrude on the entertainment. On the other hand, people look for advertising in the newspaper. If they need tires, they see the tire ads. If they need a used car or a new house, they spend hours carefully going through the small print in the classified section. If they need a new mattress, they spend a long period observing mattress ads. If you are an independent, moderate or smaller furniture store, or a giant, don't ignore this significant fact. It is a key to gaining market share.
Finally, many sales people are inadequately trained to sell mattresses. Their story is essentially price. They rarely have a script that reflects the unique factors of the store they work for. It may have been in business for fifty years, but usually no one knows it, not even the staff. Most sales people are lost when it comes to nuances of building a story of how a particular mattress is constructed and why, and how these features result in better sleep, and how better sleep can result in a happier, more productive life. When confronted with a price challenge many sales people don't know the art of enhancing the value of their own product, so they hem and haw, or worse yet, fall back and negotiate the price.
A Golden Opportunity
The last element in the mix is the maturation of the baby boomers. Never has a generation been more interested in the benefits of health, and a baby boomer turns fifty years old every seven seconds. Never has a mature generation been so well educated. They will respond to an intelligent message. Never has a mature generation been so wealthy, and they are due to begin inheriting additional billions of dollars in the next decade. If they knew they could sleep on the best sleep systems manufactured for 10¢ or so a night, they would buy top-of-the-line bedding in a snap. Never before has a mature generation been so large. And never has there been a richer opportunity for a smart retailer. Enter Sam Fishbein of Kacey Fine Furniture.
Sam Fishbein is the most knowledgeable retailer in the area of print advertising I have ever met. Sam writes his own ads, and he has made a study of the principles that make advertising work. As a merchant, he naturally knows his products. Sam wanted to develop the most dynamic series of retail mattress ads that have ever been created. Now, Sam is no dreamer. He is a solidly grounded, hard-nosed merchant. He and his wife Leslie Fishbein, who is president of the company, have dominated the better furniture market in Denver for many years.
Sam looked over mattress retailing in the mile-high city and began to perceive a tremendous opportunity within the apparent wasteland. He cleared the decks of all the assumptions and baggage that average retailers burden themselves with, and he proposed a new paradigm. It was based upon four creative merchandising and marketing insights:
- Get the top manufacturers to work together for the good of the retailer.
- Develop a facility that would romance the idea of superior sleep on top-of-the-line products. No bait and switch leaders. Just quality. And more top-of-the-line products than have ever been assembled under one retail roof before.
- Train mattress specialists more intensely than has ever happened before, and do it on site in three top mattress manufacturing and research facilities.
- Sell this package to the public by telling the story completely with an overwhelmingly powerful series of ads.
A New Vision For A New Consumer
The entire concept is too complex to discuss in a limited space. I will focus upon the development of the ads. A good ad, as I have often advocated in this series, grabs attention. It is different. It tells the entire story of who-what-when-where-how and why in a single glance. The atmosphere of the ad must be established quickly. Is it a bargain basement? Or is it a beautiful spa-like setting with glamorous artifacts?
We know that mattress prospects are generally in the market for long periods. That is, once they begin to notice signs of wear in their mattress, statistics prove they will not actually replace it for a few years. So, their worn-out mattress is in the back of their minds for quite some time. The same is true of all big-ticket discretionary purchases - furniture, carpet, a car, etc. It's true that when today's consumer finally decides it's "time" they act quickly. They may only shop one or two stores. However, at any given time the number of prospects who have not progressed to a point where they are ready to act is much larger than the number of those who are ready to buy today. It's like a pyramid. The easy-to-sell customer is at the top, but there are fewer of them. The more difficult to sell customers are harder to reach, but there are many more of them.
For these reasons a good ad captures the easy customer, but also is loaded with lots of information to reach the tougher customer. Objections are stated and overcome. Benefits are presented as valuable, yet relatively inexpensive and easy to acquire in relation to the benefits they offer. Proof of the reliability of the store and the product are necessary. If there is no limitation on the merchandise availability, it must be made to be exclusively at the store that ran the ad. And, ah yes, there has to be a deal. Today's customer demands a deal. Finally, the ad must be made to sell for you alone. It must be so loaded with exclusive statements and unique factors that no other merchant could add his name to the bottom.
Now, an ad campaign or program requires more than simply the tactical excellence suggested above. The vision of the merchandiser is the seed of all great advertising campaigns. So, the campaign must be driven by a sound merchandising concept. Next, it must be developed around a carefully devised master strategy. Third, it must be prepared with meticulous precision. It must be executed with courage and conviction. And it must be adjusted to handle contingencies as they arise. The Apollo moon shot was on target only 10% of the time! Finally, there must be staying power. Launching a new paradigm is more grunt work than glory.
The results of this advertising collaboration are presented in the exhibits. The specific ads and elements are copyrighted, and the concept will be syndicated; but the principles and general ideas presented here are a valuable guideline for the retailer with eyes to see. In my judgment, the total Kacey Health & Sleep Salon concept is the most important merchant-conceived and merchant-driven idea to emerge in the home furnishings industry in several years.
Larry Mullins, President of UltraSales, Inc., has 30+ years experience in the front lines of retail furniture marketing. Larry's mainstream executive experience, his creative work for "promoter-specialists," and study of advertising principles has enabled him to continually develop new High-Impact strategies for independent furniture retailers that are sound, complete, and innovative. Inquiries can be sent to Larry care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.