Do you remember your first major purchase? Mine was a queen-size pillow-top mattress in a silvery brocade, and the experience of buying it was so soul-crushingly bad that it’s stayed with me for 16 years. I walked into a major mattress store fresh out of college and full of excitement about furnishing my first apartment, and left in tears after several hours of high-pressure sales tactics and shifting price tags befitting a used car lot.
When it was time to upgrade in 2015, my husband and I visited a little business called Casper that we’d heard about from friends. We booked an appointment at its sparse SoHo office in New York, which had the feel of a speakeasy, and were ushered to a private room with a single mattress, told to hang out as long as we wanted and left alone. A camera rigged over the bed took our digital selfie—much like the photo above!—and emailed it to us for social sharing. Then the salesperson answered all our questions, gave us a plastic bag to wrap our old mattress in and didn’t protest when we left to “think about it.”
That night we bought the bed online, and a concierge delivered it the next day. While the phrase “direct to consumer” wasn’t in the air yet, I knew I was experiencing a retail revolution—a new, transformative way of doing business that put my needs front and center. Shopping for a big-ticket item was actually enjoyable.
Last month, I got to visit Casper in SoHo again with creative director Ron Goodman for our cover shoot with CMO Jeff Brooks, a sleep evangelist determined to transform Casper from a simple mattress company into a full-fledged wellness brand. Once again, I was struck by how much the retail experience had changed—the brand has taken over a 3,000-square-foot storefront full of semi-private clubhouses where you can test mattresses, bedding and pillows. After a morning in bed, I walked a few blocks to try on shoes at Allbirds, bought my son a book at Amazon’s 4-star store and reflected on how these challenger brands are redefining not only our shopping experience but our cities—and our coverage of brands, too.
This edition of Brandweek is devoted to world-altering challengers. You’ll find a candid conversation between two rising fitness competitors—Orangetheory and Mirror. Managing editor Kristina Monllos worked with YouGov to bring you exclusive data about how consumers perceive trends like pop-ups. Meanwhile, contributor Sara Ivry explores the unique challenges and opportunities of telemedicine, and reporter Diana Pearl digs in to Casper’s growth plan.
Thanks for reading, and for dreaming up new ways to delight your customers. We appreciate it.
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