What brand is your mattress?

According to a Times interview with the head of Tempurpedic, you don’t know.

That’s how they built a built a billion dollar company. By getting 2% of a market that doesn’t care about brands to care about them. A typical marketer looks at this and says, "great marketing! You branded a product in an unbranded marketplace."

I actually don’t think that’s what really happened. I think what happened is that every single product in the mattress market was perceived as the same, so there was no reason to care about which brand, because, frankly, it didn’t seem to matter. Like brands of gasoline or milk.

Many marketers are excited about a brand-free market. They walk in wads of cash and try to buy share. They believe that the brand can build the product. That’s backwards.

When you change the product enough, branding happens.

There are two traps here:

first, entering a brand-free market where people have been trained to ignore the various competitors is really expensive, because people aren’t listening, no matter how great your offer is. I think Tempurpedic got a little lucky.


second, believing that you can have the brand before you have the product. You almost certainly don’t have the money to pull that off.

He also said that 95% of his customers have recommended his product to others. Not the brand, not the experience, but the product. I have, it’s true. I’ve recommended a thousand dollar mattress to someone. Go figure.