Cover Story: A New, Unified Spring Air

How do you revitalize a brand that has been around for nearly a century? It’s a question a lot of mattress makers are asking these days. Some simply turn to the latest trends or newest technologies. Others stick to their guns and rest on their laurels. Over the past three years, Spring Air has taken a different approach: it has invested in its people.

By taking the time to recognize the wealth of expertise and ingenuity within its licensing network, Spring Air has been able to establish new systems to make sure their voices are at the forefront. In doing so, the company has not only created a more unified licensing group—but has successfully revamped its product assortment to support today’s retail landscape. With refreshed nationwide programs, and more cohesive marketing, the new Spring Air is more streamlined and energized than ever before.

The first step to revitalizing the brand was to peel it back to the most essential question: why buy a Spring Air mattress? Soon after he took over as president in 2016, Nick Bates posed that exact question to licensees and salespeople during the Las Vegas Market. “Everybody gave me a different answer,” he remembers. “It was clear, in the end, that nobody really had a clear direction on why you would buy a Spring Air.”

While the company enjoyed steady success over the years, there was no doubt that this lack of clarity was going to be a struggle moving forward. So it commissioned a full brand DNA on the Spring Air name in the hopes of not only establishing where the company was positioned in the market—but see where it could grow as well.

In doing so, Spring Air “went back to basics” and identified three key principles at the core of its brand. The first two principles—“Built Right” and “More Where It Matters”—ensure that, no matter what, every Spring Air product is crafted with an “innovative mix of high-quality materials to provide comfort and support for a great night sleep,” Bates says. That means utilizing more of the best possible components to deliver heightened value all the way through to the end consumer. Understanding that the product itself is only one piece of the larger puzzle, the third key principle centers around putting “People First.” While some manufacturers may limit their support to only their biggest accounts, Spring Air guarantees that every retailer—whether they’re a nationwide chain or a mom-and-pop shop—has a dedicated sales rep and substantive customer service.

“We’re committed to delivering superior service with a real human touch whenever you need it. When your customer has an issue, we talk to those customers and we make sure that they’re taken care of—they don’t just get a waiting signal or a call center.” 

—Nick Bates, President of Spring Air

With these three basic principles in place, Spring Air began to create a singular identity the entire organization could rally around. Early on in Bates’ tenure as president, he invited Rion Morgenstern, president and CEO of Spring Air’s West Territory facility, to be a part of the newly established Branding Committee. The goal for this committee is to map out the company’s future through structured branding strategy. The two holed up in a hotel room in Las Vegas for a few days and brainstormed what they could be doing differently. After tossing around a series of different concepts and ideas, they came up with a plan for how to reintegrate all of the licensing partners around this common goal.

“The corporate office was very lean under the prior leadership,” Morgenstern explains. “But there was a lot of history and intelligence within all of the other organizations. So what if we formed committees and invited key people from all those organizations to take up this challenge?”

By tapping people from every licensing group, they ensured that no one facility would be dominating the conversation—and, in doing so, would not only unify the entire network, but more effectively steer the company’s development moving forward. Today the company has grown its licensing group from seven to ten domestic licensees—all of whom are working together towards “that one goal of making Spring Air the best brand it can possibly be,” Bates says.

Cover_Spring Air Licensee Network

“Spring Air is now at the top of everyone’s mind. That’s one huge culture change that we didn’t have before, and without that nothing else works. Now we have a clear vision of what to use and when to use it, and we’ve also formed in the background a great corporate staff that can assist our licensee network in many different ways.”

Morgenstern reaffirms this idea, saying: “If you look at what we’re really doing different, I think the unification is core. Nick has put in a huge amount of effort behind the scenes to make sure that licensees feel like they have a voice, feel like they have an influence—he’s still steering the ship but he’s definitely giving an opportunity to let people provide feedback and guidance.”

This sense of unity has played a big role as the company has worked to streamline its product assortment. Understanding that offering too many options often leaves everyone overwhelmed and confused, Spring Air has opted to instead focus on a few key collections with clear differentiation in positioning.

It began with Back Supporter. Over the years, the Back Supporter name had become a catch-all for all sorts of licensee-exclusive beds. By rebranding those options with “by Spring Air” names, the company was then able to reimagine Back Supporter as a singular collection. Last winter, the new Back Supporter was reintroduced as its nationwide ‘bread and butter’ line-up. Priced from $599 to $1499, the collection now follows designated specs— and is bolstered by clear marketing, new logos and easily-identifiable elements.

Since then, the company has established a more concrete “house of brands” under the Spring Air umbrella. From the temperature regulating Four Seasons to the uncompromising Chattam & Wells and the new latex-based Nature’s Rest, each brand fulfills a specific product category and price point— and comes with a very cohesive marketing package that encapsulates everything from the mattress styling to the in-store POP materials. By equipping each collection with its own unique set of branding guidelines and resources, it has reinforced the strength of its messaging—and simplified the entire process for everyone.

“If everything is plug-and-play, it takes that one bit of thinking out of it and makes everyone’s life a little bit easier,” Bates says. “Our licensees don’t have to create anything themselves, like they often had to do previously. You can use our branding documents and collateral that have been created for all of your needs.”

Rather than instituting unilateral changes from the top-down, these new collections were developed and fine-tuned by the company’s newly formed Product Development Committee. Made up of ten members—one from each Spring Air facility, as voted on by their teams—the committee comes together once a quarter for a day’s worth of meetings to figure out all the essential details of the new product line.

“The value this brings to our company is literally over a hundred years of experience in one room, giving us many different ways to look at a scenario,” says Bates. “We have a great network of manufacturing, marketing, branding and operational minds that we can tap into. This usually would take hiring consulting firms and very expensive agencies; instead we are able to utilize our licensee network.”

Following the successful relaunch of Back Supporter, Spring Air unveiled another legacy brand revival at this summer’s Las Vegas Market. Looking to fulfill an increasingly valuable gap in the company’s product assortment, the newly refreshed Nature’s Rest brand offers retailers a latex story that is supported by eye-catching POP and one-of-a-kind looks and feels.

Cover_Spring Air - Acadia CloseupWhen it comes to revitalizing an existing brand, the company takes the time to first fully understand its history. Before drafting any potential branding ideas, they bring together “four or five key players that have known about that brand for the longest or been involved with it the most,” Bates explains. For Nature’s Rest, that included Mark Campbell from the company’s Tennessee facility, CEO Ed Bates and at least one retailer, all of whom were able to really explain the basic outline of what made the brand what it was during its heyday. Working closely with a third-party branding agency, the Spring Air Branding Committee can then pinpoint the so-called “engineered advantages” of the brand— the specific features that make it unique.

“Everyone can say, natural this natural that, natural fabrics, all this great stuff—but that’s not what Nature’s Rest really was,” Bates continues. “It was always teetering the line of being natural without being a fully natural brand.”

By anchoring the new program within the context of its history, Spring Air been able to find a way to build upon its legacy without getting stuck in stagnant or old-fashioned ideas. This careful balance is an essential part of the company’s retail support. “We are a brick-and-mortar retail brand, not an upstart, so we rely heavily on our retail sales associates and our buyers to introduce us to the customer,” Morgenstern explains. “I think the heritage, especially in that context, plays an important part in getting on the retail floor.” For the retail sales associates who may already have a working memory of a certain brand, a revival can be a major asset to them—as they’re already comfortable speaking on it. By taking that history and coupling it with more modern feels and styling, Spring Air can elevate the collection to something new and exciting that consumers will be immediately drawn to.

With both goals in mind, the company began to paint a picture of how the refreshed line would fit in today’s marketplace. This includes looking for “white space” in the industry: what is a look or a message that hasn’t been seen before? By zeroing in on the natural but not organic element of the line-up, the team identified the target consumer as someone who enjoys and appreciates the wonders of nature—but is maybe not especially interested in really roughing it. By drafting a series of archetypes and mood boards, the company was able to build upon these insights to sketch out a branding program that expanded upon a recreational State Park theme.

Once the rough outline of the branding was set, it was thrown back to the Product Development Committee to figure out all of the product and operations-driven decisions—everything from the logos and linen fabrics to the latex materials, comfort feels and suppliers. As the process neared the finish line, both committees were working together to finalize the entire program. “It’s a lot of handing back and forth,” Bates says, “but one hand can’t work without the other.”

Fourteen months after the initial meeting, the new Nature’s Rest was unveiled at market in a major way. When market attendees arrived at the Spring Air show space, they walked right into the “Nature’s Rest State Park” experience. The standard reception area had been replaced with lush outdoor greenery, 15-foot “Sequoia trees” decorated with real moss and flowers, built out signs— and a new Nature’s Rest mattress nestled amidst the forestry. The goal of this redesign was to really immerse visitors into the branding story before they even got to the products. “Then when you bring them into the product section, it makes it that much easier to explain and show them why certain things are that way,” Bates explains. “So when you’re able to see that vision and where we’re coming from and then you see the marketing materials, the signage, the pictures on the wall, the names of the beds, why we used linen fabrics, it helps tie it all together.”

Cover_Spring Air 3 - Natures Rest

Establishing new nationwide brands like Nature’s Rest not only helps support the unification of the licensee organization, it also directly benefits the retailer as well. While a typical licensing structure can lead to confusion by offering multiple variations of a line-up across different territories, this more cohesive approach allows for clearer messaging and more effective marketing tactics.

“Because all the licensees have bought into all the process that we’ve created, through the Product Development Committee, the national products that we’re showing at market are the same national products that our licensees are taking out to retail. That means the consumer can do research on one of the brands in the Spring Air house of brands, find out about our product and then go into retail and ask for it,” Bates explains.

Since its debut, Nature’s Rest has already begun securing placements all over the country. More than just a visually appealing program, the line-up provides retailers with a valuable specialty option in today’s marketplace: while the memory foam and innerspring categories have been steadily driven down in cost, latex is still holding price point at retail. And Nature’s Rest is equipped with a meaningful branding story that helps the consumer better understand and connect to this category in a more authentic way.

After a busy few years, Spring Air is planning on taking its time when it comes to developing any new products. Instead, it is focusing on its retail partners, ensuring they have the support to make the most of each unique brand. And after seeing the benefits of restructuring its US business, the company is now looking to expand that approach to its international licensees as well. While product features and styling will always vary region to region, the next goal is to fortify a more singular Spring Air brand across the globe.

Today, Spring Air stands as a model of how to evolve without erasing your history. Over the past three years, we’ve seen the company build upon its legacy by streamlining its focus and infusing it with fresh ideas, youthful energy and bolder messaging. Armed with a stronger-than-ever house of brands and a unified team of creative thinkers and makers, Spring Air has built a reliable roadmap for enduring success.