Yash Bhatia

Sleepwell hits snooze on celebrity endorsements amid back-to-back campaigns

Nilesh Mazumdar, CEO, Sheela Foam explains the idea behind two back-to-back campaigns, media mix, avoiding celebrity associations, and more.

Has your bed ever reminded you of bread? Probably not. However, Sleepwell, a mattress brand, did just that by drawing an unconventional comparison between its Pro Nexa mattress and a loaf of bread.

In the campaign,TV personality Kunal Vijaykar showcases key differences between Sleepwell Pro Nexa mattress and memory foam mattress by using the analogy of dough and bread. 

The visual narrative effectively communicates the challenges of sinking into traditional memory foam, likening it to fingers getting stuck in dough. In contrast, the Pro Nexa mattress, represented by a soft loaf of bread, is depicted as providing a smooth and unrestricted movement, emphasising its superior qualities.

Nilesh Mazumdar, chief executive officer at Sheela Foam, the parent company of Sleepwell, tells afaqs!, that brand communication within the mattress category often incorporates technical jargon that may not resonate with customers due to their limited understanding of such terminology. 

“The analogy of dough and bread helped us to connect with consumers in a comprehensible way. It helped us to convey the comfort and feel of our mattress compared to a memory foam mattress, which consumers must have heard of,” he adds.

Prior to this campaign, the brand initiated another in the same month titled Did you Sleep well?. The ad for the campaign delves into the emotional well-being and comfort of individuals, encouraging viewers to express care and compassion by asking their loved ones, “Did you sleep well?”

Mazumdar emphasises that a majority of brands tend to focus on detailing the features of mattresses or rely on celebrities as crutches in their marketing strategies. The primary challenge with such approaches is that the message fails to register in the minds of consumers. Additionally, these brands become entangled in delivering identical messages, resulting in marginal differentiation.

“We as a market leader brand want to stand apart from the crowd, consumers are in contact with the mattress for a minimum of eight hours but still the category is not at the top of their minds. Our brand’s name is powerful, which is both noun and verb, that’s why we could use this.”

The brand released two campaigns in a short period. Does this lead to confusion among customers?

He clarifies that the purpose of both communications were different. The first campaign aims to build brand saliency and generate interest among consumers in the category, while the second campaign underscores the rational reasons why customers should buy mattresses from their brand. 

“The second campaign was tactical in terms of communication. We launched it ahead of the Diwali season, as a lot of mattress purchases happen during the period. Therefore the objective of both campaigns was different,” he highlights.

SleepWell is targeting customers demographically from 25 to 55 years old through these campaigns.

It allocates 5% of its annual revenue to marketing. The mattress company is allocating a 50-50% budget to both campaigns. 

Talking about the media mix, a major chunk of the budget is spent on television,with 25-30% of the budget earmarked for digital channels. The brand is also investing in print and outdoor mediums to boost the campaigns, along with in-shop demonstrations for the second campaign. 

For the Cricket World Cup ‘23, the budget allotment remains consistent, as the brand believes that consumers above the age of 40 years will be more on television and connected TV. 

In a departure from traditional influencer marketing strategies, the brand is planning to partner with doctors, orthopaedics and physiotherapists who can provide informed recommendations for the right products.

“In the future, we’re looking to build a complete program around them. It will build a large amount of awareness and knowledge in the fraternity. It requires a different kind of scientific and technical approach, hence we’re preparing a whole plan around it,” he mentions. 

The absence of celebrity endorsements

In the mattress category, various companies are betting big on celebrities, such as Karan Johar and Anil Kapoor for The Sleep Company, Virat Kohli and Alia Bhatt for Duroflex, Ayushmann Khurana for Wakefit, Sania Mirza for Centuary Mattresses, and Kareena Kapoor Khan for Springfit Mattress, to name a few. However, Sleepwell has intentionally refrained from associating with any celebrity figure.

Mazumdar asserts to afaqs! that this deliberate choice is rooted in the belief that celebrity endorsements are often employed when marketers lack imagination or when there are limited differentiation points to highlight. For Sleepwell, with a robust array of brand-related topics, products, and offerings, the need for a celebrity endorsement is deemed unnecessary.

“The kind of messaging that we’re trying to do, there’s no value add that the celebrity can make for us. As we have enough to talk about our brand, products, and offerings, I believe there’s no need for a celebrity endorsement,” he clarifies. 

Offline vs online retail

According to Statista, the mattress market in India amounts to $239.30 million in 2023, with an anticipated growth rate of 7.97%. The United States stands out as the primary revenue generator in this market. 

Despite the global trend towards online purchases, the category continues to dominate physical sales, as customers express a preference for the tactile experience of touching and feeling the product before making a purchase.

Mazumdar highlights that even in the USA, only a mere 15% of the total mattress business is conducted online. Notably, within this online segment, major purchases are predominantly dominated by mattresses priced below Rs 12,000.

“Consumers are doing a lot of research digitally, before buying the product through a retail store. Through this, they can make more informed decisions while purchasing from a physical outlet,” he adds.

For Sleepwell, the online segment constitutes only 8-9% of its overall business, with the majority of sales still occurring through offline channels.

The category faces many challenges, primarily stemming from the fact that mattresses are not considered social products compared to other categories. Additionally, the extended timeline involved in purchasing a mattress poses a significant pain point for brands operating in this sector.

To address these challenges, Sleepwell is looking to promote the category in a way that establishes resilience and ensures that it remains a top-of-mind consideration for its customers.

In addition, the brand identifies another challenge: 60% of Indian customers are opting for cotton mattresses over modern alternatives. Recognising this as a substantial business opportunity, Sleepwell is focused on transforming them into customers of their offerings. 

Furthermore, Sleepwell sees an opportunity in addressing the dominance of the unorganised sector within the mattress industry. The brand aims to educate customers about the inherent value of opting for branded purchases in order to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the quality associated with branded products in this sector.

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