- The mattress startup Casper is letting people send out 'fake' summer vacation photos
- The upstart brand also has a publication dedicated to sleep content
- Sales are increasing in a once-sleepy category thanks to social media and cool events
Getting bouts of FOMO looking at all your friends' various vacation pictures? Mattress startup Casper has got you covered.
The mattress maker's latest advertising effort is designed to let people trick their friends into thinking that they're on vacation from the comfort of their beds.
"Staycation Story Hacks" is a Casper-owned website featuring photos and videos of a series of typical summer scenes, like jet skiing and a pool party, which users can share on their Instagram or Snapchat Stories.
The brand's whimsical summer "hack" is hardly a one-off. Three years since its launch, Casper has managed to not only disrupt the mattress business, but also advertising, thanks to its clever mix of tech, design, content and ingenuous digital hacks to make sleep worth talking about. It has also earned itself the tag of an innovative brand, with people calling it everything from the Nike to the Warby Parker of mattresses.
"We knew when we started that we were up against a big oligarchy, with all the massive corporations-pardon the pun- in bed together," Lindsay Kaplan, Casper's VP of communications and brand engagement, told Business Insider. "Our strategy from the start has been on changing perceptions about mattress shopping and creating a community around sleep in a playful and creative way, with a genuine voice."
In other words, the company has been hard at work trying to convince consumers that sleep is a pursuit as worthy as exercise or eating. And that means a diversified yet integrated marketing strategy, focusing on everything from traditional out-of-home advertising to digital and social media efforts.
'Unboxing' and Waffle Crush Wednesdays
When it launched in 2104, Casper relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing, with a huge outdoor effort that plastered a colorful cast of characters across billboards, subway cars and taxis across the country to demonstrate the need for a perfect mattress. But over time, it has shifted to a more digital focus.
The brand declined to disclose numbers, but the bulk of Casper's marketing budget is now digital, according to Kaplan. The company has a marketing team of 25 and a dedicated social team of three people, who post organic content as well buy digital ads. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the most important digital platforms for the brand, according to Kaplan.
Casper's social team frequently engages with consumers on these platforms in its characteristic irreverent tone, sharing everything from their mattress "unboxing" videos and posts in weekly series like "Waffle Crush Wednesdays."
The unboxing videos are surprisingly popular online-several amassing over 100,000 views-with consumers sharing videos of how Casper's surprisingly tiny mattress roll unfurls and expands in dramatically when opened. The brand has recently also started running a weekly series on Instagram Stories, where it helps people cope with Monday morning blues by destroying alarm clocks in a variety of setups.
The company also tries to shake up its ad tactics every few months. Last year, for example, the brand launched the chatbot Insomnobot 3000, which sent entertaining texts to insomniacs in the wee hours of the night. And a few months before that, it launched "Late Night Snap Hacks," a precursor to its latest campaign which consisted of snaps that users could post to their Snapchat accounts to trick followers into thinking they're out on the town, instead of home on bed.
"Casper is not just breaking the traditional mattress sales convention, but also breaking industry norms with its advertising with its unconventional illustrations paired with quirky and humorous copy," said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at branding firm MBLM. "The brand's tone of voice is friendly, conversational and reassuring, breaking the norm and herd mentality of traditional mattress companies."
The brand has also made significant investments in content from the start, running not just a quirky product-focused blog called "Pillow Talk" but also Van Winkle's, an independent publication dedicated to all things sleep-related. The publication, launched in 2015, was designed to further the company's goal to emerge as a "sleep lifestyle brand," according to Kaplan. Van Winkle's momentum, however, seems to have slowed since it first started. (It aimed to publish 10 pieces of original content daily when it launched, but the number is closer to one story every few days recently.)
Despite the hiccups, Casper deserves credit for attempting to reinterpret the complicated subject of mattress choice in a fun way, said Agathe Blanchon-Ehrsam, chief marketing officer at branding firm the Vivaldi Group.
"It reinterpreted mattress shopping to tell stories about what we do in bed, recognizing that it is the canvas for a huge part of our life, not just a technical support for our horizontal activities," she said.
Making sleep cool
Partnerships too have played a key role in upping Casper's cool quotient as a brand, whether with influencers or other brands. In 2014, for example, it partnered with Uber on a mattress-delivery weekend, while this year, it collaborated with Tesla and The Standard hotel to create a hipster crash pad at South by Southwest. On the influencer side, Casper tapped into a roster of famous pet pooches when it launched dog mattresses last year. It is also big on experiences and pop-up events, hosting several swanky events as well as running its very own touring mattress-on-wheels bus.
"Mattresses and bedding are tangible products, so we want people to be able to see the box, feel the bed and even have a pillow fight," said Kaplan. "We're always thinking through creative ways to get people to experience our products."
Casper's fresh approach toward both content and commerce has catapulted its brand forward, with the company doubling its sales to $200 million in 2016, on track to double sales again this year. It's commitment to disruption is also clear: the company has built out an R&D lab in San Francisco for rapid prototyping products and conducting research is consistently expanding its product offering. Expect the company to continue on an upward trajectory, experts say.
"A large factor in disrupting categories is rethinking the category from the consumer's perspective-a massive departure from the product-first perspective of traditional manufacturers," said Blanchon-Ehrsam. "Casper understands how consumers think about sleep for all members of their households, and seems intent at extending the disruption beyond operations and marketing, becoming the sleep expert beyond even the mattress category."