Why Sleep-Centric Marketing Is on the Rise

Brands aim to solve our collective insomnia

The pitches have become so plentiful that every time you close your eyes, you might be able to replay a mail-order mattress ad in your head. Except, you're rarely closing your eyes.

Americans are notoriously—and increasingly—sleep deprived. More than one-third of the U.S. adult population admits to routinely not catching enough z's, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with serious sleep disorders on a steep incline. And where there's zombie-like sheep counting, there's opportunity.

Enter a whole boatload of products, services, gadgets, books, supplements and programs to help us get more rest. They range from Huffington Post co-founder and editor in chief Arianna Huffington's history and how-to tome, The Sleep Revolution, to $13,000 sleep pods for the office to iPhone's new "night shift" feature. Innovative bed-in-a-box makers (and marketers) like Purple, Casper, Leesa and others are launching all-out digital assaults for their crop of reinvented mattresses, trying to grab their share of the estimated $750 million that consumers will spend in that ecommerce category this year.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is shilling for Simmons Beautyrest mattress, and '70s TV icons Morgan Fairchild and Erik Estrada are memorably poking fun at their has-been status in commercials for Mattress Firm.

And this spring even Oprah, the queen of being your best self, got into the sleep racket. She and Deepak Chopra launched a new series of on-demand online courses with the tutorial called 7 Days to Restful Sleep, to address an "everyday problem that impacts overall well-being."

No doubt, they're all onto something. Studies have found that lack of sleep contributes to lower productivity, memory problems, depression, accidents, obesity and a host of other health issues. (The sleep lab business is booming, by the way, says IBISWorld.) Along with this new data, there seems to be a cultural shift afoot that no longer considers sleep to be a slacker activity or a total waste of time. "I'll sleep when I'm dead" is passé. "Millennials are raised from birth to think about health and wellness," said Jane Buckingham, CEO and forecaster at Trendera. "And boomers are taking better care of themselves. Both sides are driving the trend."


And yet, people have never been so restless, owing largely to demanding daily schedules, longer work hours, heavy-duty stress and handheld technology. If we never unplug, how can we shut down? (Michael Breus, aka the Sleep Doctor, calls it "wired and tired.")

That's where "smart" textiles that regulate temperature, white-noise apps, FitBit's sleep tracking, sleep spas and The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, a best-seller that promises to knock your kid out in minutes, come in. The industry has grown into an $80-billion-a-year behemoth.

Executives at Purple said consumers seem to be taking at least a few steps to better their shut-eye.

"People are investing more in their sleep, and they're educating themselves about their options," said Alex McArthur, Purple's CMO. He backs up Buckingham's observation about cross-generational interest, with Purple's buyers clustered in the 25- to 44-year-old and over-55 demos, he said.

Sleep-centric marketing won't be here today, gone tomorrow, Buckingham said, with more food, beverage, beauty, tech and entertainment products to come. The Sleep Channel on cable, anyone?

That's because tackling our insomnia problem will require major attitude adjustments. There's no magic pill outside of, say, a pill. (Consumers spent some $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies in 2015, per BCC Research.) Instead, the chronically sleep deprived need to make rest a priority, along with other wellness tactics like meditating, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol before bed, exercising more, and the list goes on.

"Since we're asking consumers to change their behavior, that movement will take a long time," Buckingham noted. "That kind of recalibration doesn't happen quickly." Or overnight, pun intended.

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

Click here to subscribe.

Recommended articles