New clothes or a new person

The efforts and investments that are put in branding initiatives assume serious contours when the product in question is a new one or a high-involvement one. So how does that work for mattresses?

Since the ages of cave paintings to the modern-day Virtual Reality Billboards, marketers have always ensured that their messages stand out. Branding is that special wrapping on a product that gives it speed, distinction and a special parking spot in the consumer mind-space.

This acceleration can get even more profound when the product is in its launch stages. Similarly, in a challenging time when demand is low and when spending is constrained – like what we saw during the Covid phase- the importance of right branding gets underlined. And that applies with a new gravity for mattress products. Because on one hand, general consumer spending has been stunted due to the impact of the pandemic, but on the other hand, people are spending more time and attention on two aspects – health and home. Incidentally, both apply closely to a mattress brand. So what should mattress brands be listening to as they chart their strategies and campaigns?

What’s hot and what’s not – For marketers

Pandemic’s Hangover Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and branding professionals have been subject to a lot of changes and new trends in the recent past. As per the Bynder’s COVID 19 edition of the State of Branding Report (which surveyed 301 creative, marketing and brand professionals) it was observed that 57 percent believe COVID 19 will have a lasting impact on their brand/ marketing efforts, but it won’t be transformative. There were 36 percent who have actually increased their output of marketing campaigns since the COVID 19 outbreak. And 1 in 2 brand professionals saw the development of new messaging, content and campaigns in response to COVID 19 as their highest branding-related priority. Albert Garry Beard, CMD of A.H.Beard (Holdings)Pty Ltd had pointed this out too when he told Comfort Times that people were at home and were saving money. “Travel came to a standstill. Being confined to home, people decided to invest in betterquality beds.”

Frank van Gogh, CEO of Joyce Foam remarked in a conversation with Comfort Times earlier that spending patterns of consumers have changed. “But consumer behaviour has not changed much – for the mattress category. They have switched attention from travel to home improvement. Household products, renovations and home solutions have done well in the pandemic period.” That should be a good cue for brands to leverage this new current. Mattress players can dovetail their messaging and tone to these customers who want the right solution for their home improvement plans and who do not want the same run-of-the-mill answers this time.

Image Shifts

So when times change, the way consumers are approached and products are offered also changes. Shifts in the overall environment affect marketing strategies and new product launches in a serious way. Bynder’s report surmises that given the unusual nature of these times, there is no tried-and-tested brand strategy to follow. Many organisations seem to be adopting a more cautious approach – there are 45 percent which are “tweaking focus and messaging”, and only 18 percent believe that they have to “drastically change the way we do business”. What is interesting is that 53 percent manifest development of new messaging, content, and campaigns in direct response to COVID 19 as their highest branding related priority right now. It emerged as more important than ensuring existing messaging/content.

Also if 52 percent are feeling “somewhat concerned” about making missteps that could affect their brand image, and 27 percent feeling “very concerned”, that means that marketing assumes a new gravity and role in this year.

Dr. Renuka Kamath, Professor of Marketing, S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) explains the importance of marketing in the launch of a new product. “The importance of marketing can’t be understated for new product launches. From targeting the right segment to the most important element of brand positioning, marketing has a very large part to play in the success of a product launch.” Talking about a highinvolvement category like a mattress or a car, she elaborates, “If the product itself is really good but is pushed at the wrong consumer, then there is little chance of success. Moreover, it has to resonate with the consumers. This is particularly true for high-involvement categories, where consumers will conduct their own homework and also are largely clear about their needs.”

The impact of COVID 19 on brand and content strategy is quite palpable. There are 45 percent marketers who feel that this effect is strong – and that they must pivot their our brand and content strategy, while 31 percent also felt that have to drastically change the way they do business. Marketers are also concerned about making mistakes – there were 52 percent that felt somewhat concerned, 27 percent were very concerned, and 22 percent were found unconcerned.

So while it may be tempting to roll out a flurry of new products, mattress players have to be very creative and cautious about the branding approach they adopt. It has to nail the new set of customer aspirations and concerns very well. There is little room for making mistakes, now that the consumer would be extra-impatient and extra-careful.

Luxury Upgrade

The current landscape’s new patterns etch a different story altogether when we are talking of a product that is either luxury or a high-involvement category. A mattress is not something one buys like groceries. People spend time and attention in making this decision. It will be relevant then to juxtapose some marketing trends that are rising in the high-end markets.

Insights from Luxe Analytics reveal that India is the fastest growing luxury markets in the world – slated to rise from current $30 billion to more than $200 billion in 2030. And when it comes to luxury, consumers, specially millennials, emphasise on experience and authenticity – that means brands should pay attention to these factors and reinvent themselves when necessary.

Apart from talking about high-grade material quality and delivering creamlevel experience, brands should also define the values that align with such a category. That is where personalisation and immersive marketing get centrestage. Consider here that over 80 percent of luxury sales get ‘digitally influenced’ and online luxury sales is a slice growing as big as $70 billion globally by 2025.

There is one more factor here that marketers cannot ignore. The psychological and emotional construct of the customer. As per a Kearney Institute report, consumer emotions are increasingly driving buying decisions and influence how brands can activate consumer communities. Mattress brands can shift the conversation as stewards of their core consumer communities. They can do this by embracing both the commonalities and differences. So, moving forward, gaining share in a consumer’s consciousness (mind share) is going to be elbowing out the traditional market share metric mind-set.

Responsibility

There is a palpable shift toward community marketing and there is a need to tread carefully around sensitivities. As per a recent Forrester report “Predictions 2020: CMO”, the key to survival will be establishing control over the customer experience in order to provide value. As we step ahead into a fresh business era, successful CMOs will no longer be exclusively focused on marketing. They will wear responsible for “customer obsession” by expanding their control to areas like customer experience, company values, brand innovation and employee experience. The recommendation for marketers is to align resources so that brand value can be generated and delivered quickly to customers. About 10 percent of CMOs will actually assume that level of control next year. The ambit for marketing will also expand in breadth and responsibility. Almost 181 CEOs adjusted the priority for their companies from serving shareholders to serving all stakeholders – that means almost everyone – customers, employees, suppliers and broader communities. And to add to that, CMOs are going beyond storytelling. They are becoming story makers.

That explains why some clever mattress brands have already rolled out formats like experience stores, or sleepawareness campaigns or social-media communities. Some brands are creating specific propositions and voice around a specific group’s needs – like ortho patients or sleep-deprived workforce. Some campaigns and product-offerings are talking to couples with different sleeping needs or people who want to track sleep as part of their overall fitness regime. This points to a new direction in mattress marketing.

Long-Tail Marketing

So marketing is getting more responsible, more innovative, more personalised and more interactive. It is also expanding in a physical way as it expands in an emotional way. If we thumb through Kearney’s new India Retail Index, we will see how tier 2 and tier 3 cities are hot-beds for growth. They are unlocking powerful opportunities for retailers to expand. A big array of smaller cities is emerging as the growth centers. These cities have with their own consumer preferences.

The pandemic has underlined another big factor about India’s smaller cities: resilience. The impact of COVID-19 on retail activity was noted to be less severe in tier 2 and smaller cities than it has been in tier 1 and metro cities. There was a faster reopening of stores and a smaller impact on disposable income supported by a good season for cropsas seen in retail demand in tier 3 and smaller cities. These are expected to bounce to normal faster than in metro and tier 1 cities. The tier 3 and beyondcities have shown 53 percent growth in e-commerce volumes. It was seen in this index that product categories like apparel, footwear, and jewelry, show a presence in more than six times the number of cities. And some smart mattress players have already lapped on to that drift. Their expansion plans now include these regions as priority areas.

Ok, so far all looks easy and rosy. But is that all for marketers in the mattress industry to be ready for? Or is there something else? Should they hit a big ‘reset’ button too? Should mattress-makers reinvent and repackage their brands?

Human Over Common

Apart from adding excitement and relevance, repositioning helps a brand to illustrate its company’s evolution and embrace change. It makes customers see you in a new light. This rebranding strategy can also extend your appeal to new demographics and boost business growth. As per Deloitte 2020 Global Marketing Trends, just as people expect brands to treat them like humans and not merely as transactions, they also expect brands to act more human. That is where it becomes important for brands to embody human qualities—like transparency, freshness, consistency and authenticity. This points out some crucial elements that a brand needs to embrace with full vigour – Purpose, fusion, trust, participation and human experience.

If we look at the top issues that consumers identify with while making decisions about brands, we can see that 28 percent consider how the company treats its own people/employees, 20 percent look at how the company treats the environment, and, 19 percent go for how the company supports the communities in which it operates. Deloitte’s consumer pulsing survey revealed that more than 80 percent of consumers would be willing to pay more if a brand raised its prices to be more environmentally- and sociallyresponsible or to pay higher wages to its employees.

So it would be a win-win for marketers to add sustainability, health and environmental responsibility in their new offerings. Also, do not replace human connect with dead tools, It has been seen that despite automation and AI, the essentials of human connection—eye contact, personal touch, empathy—have stayed irreplaceable by technology. In the Deloitte research on how organisations can authentically—and empathetically—elevate the human experience, it was noted that after years of viewing the customer experience and the workforce experience as isolated initiatives, many organisations achieved only marginal results. But the most effective results get accomplished by aligning and connecting the customer, workforce and business partner experiences through shared value. Organisations which can align their values best with their stakeholders are also the most successful in terms of workforce and customer satisfaction. When assessed over a three-year period, these same organisations are twice as likely to outperform peer groups in revenue growth.

The writing on the wall is clear. It is a great time to bring out something fresh – whether it is as a product or a message or an overall marketing strategy.

Harish Bijoor, Brand-Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. highlights the importance that marketing adorns in the launch of a new product – specially if it is a highinvolvement category like a mattress or a car? “Branding and marketing are critical pathways for new product launches need to invest in. Marketing overall does help branch reach their end goal-point, the customer.”

Yes. This is the perfect time for a mattress-brand to aim for a new demographic or a city or a voice. Just make sure that you know what new values and priorities have emerged? What customers are gravitating towards? If you start thinking beyond a ‘product’ mind-set, beyond the ‘metro’ city, beyond ‘a physical store’, beyond a ‘digital’ tool, and beyond ‘one stakeholder’– you will surely win not just more and more wallets and likes, but also more hearts. Turn to the side of the bed where customer gets up from. That’s the future. That’s the new ‘new’

ISPF is an industry body which promotes importance of sleep and role of mattress for a Indian consumers. ISPF plays very important role in connecting Indian bedding industry ecosystem. ISPF also acts as bridge between India and international players.