As we find ourselves in the throes of the Olympics, we’ve been thinking a little bit about athletes as spokespeople and advocates for physical and mental health. With Simone Biles’ choice to take a pause for her health during the games making global headlines, the impact of celebrity leadership and insight couldn’t be more clear. In Biles’ case, her decision to take a step back resulted in a triumphant comeback and this courageous move will hopefully speak to many—and she’s not alone. The power of influence has grown more broadly, as well. When celebrities speak out about an experience or share a product they enjoyed, people really take notice. And in the world of marketing, that growth can translate into transactions.
Ideally, an influencer can do much more than sell product or drive traffic though. Influencers have the unique power to deliver a resonant message—one that can cause consumers to reevaluate their own habits, think differently about how they live their lives and ultimately pursue new tools to make positive changes.
We wanted to explore influencer marketing, what it looks like in the bedding and mattress industry, what makes a strong influencer campaign and the positive ways in which influence can benefit consumers.
What is influencer marketing?
According to Sprout Social, influencer marketing is, “at a fundamental level, a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers—individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche.”
While the modern approach to influencer marketing is largely centered around social media or at least includes social media as a component, we’d hazard to argue that influencer marketing has existed long before social media. Rather, it has evolved with new technologies. Even today, influencer marketing encompasses a wide variety of marketing avenues—the real key to an influence-driven marketing strategy is the association between a brand and a respected, well-known individual or group.
Today, influencers range from athletes and celebrities to politicians and humanitarians to everyday people who’ve cultivated a following on social media. You could also argue that mattress review sites are a form of influencer marketing. For the purposes of today’s deep dive, we are focusing on influencers that sleep on the mattress or other sleep product then endorse, review or share their experiences with it—rather than partnerships where a mattress lineup is named after or made with the input of a celebrity, i.e.: no Kim Kardashian mattress lines here.
What are some examples of influencer marketing in the sleep industry?
Different brand ambassadors and endorsements from different types of people will resonate with different audiences. For younger consumers, social media stars and celebrities in their age range may be more appealing. For older shoppers, understanding the health benefits of a mattress or sleep product may be most important. For these populations, medical professionals like doctors and sleep specialists may offer the most compelling testimonial. For active consumers, the ones that are most interested in sleep for recovery, athlete endorsement might be more enticing. There are a variety of factors that drive what sort of influencer will appeal to what sort of audience: age, gender, political views, desired benefits and more. And these “influencer” partnerships can look different. Below are a few case studies to demonstrate different ways influencers can garner consumer attention and drive interest in a brand or product.
Allyson Felix X Reverie
In 2020, Reverie launched a partnership with Allyson Felix for National Sleep Month. As part of this partnership, Allyson Felix worked with a Reverie Sleep Coach to outline sleep tips for families. She also took time as part of the campaign to advocate for customizable sleep à la Reverie’s Dream Supreme Sleep System. This example is a subtle form of celebrity endorsement that comes with actionable advice for sleepers, with Reverie’s products positioned as valuable tools to support any family’s journey toward better quality sleep. Felix was an authentic choice because she’s an athlete (which will appeal to a wide audience) as well as a busy mother looking out for her family (which brings in more potential audience members with different needs). Felix is not a polarizing figure; she’s an advocate for healthier families and healthier bodies that support performance—making her values align nicely with those of the Reverie brand.
Dr. Rebecca Robbins X Beautyrest
Beautyrest has long worked with sleep scientist Rebecca Robbins to help educate consumers about sleep. While this particular partnership is not quite the same as the modern idea of influencer marketing, having a doctor even indirectly promote your brand and contribute to the information shared with consumers helps verify the benefits offered by your products and gives more credibility to a brand’s approach to manufacturing.
While this instagrammer doesn’t appear to partner with or focus on the brand of mattress atop which he naps, he does serve as an ambassador for different types of sleep accessories like noise-cancelling earbuds. And as far as social media personalities go, he is very much a sleep influencer. While he may focus more on hospitality, he’s a normal person who built a following on social media by becoming an expert on a niche—napping while traveling. If a company were to partner with him, he would likely offer that brand great visibility and access to an audience of sleep enthusiasts.
Casper & Influencer Marketing
When it comes to the sleep sector, part of Casper’s early “cool factor” was its use of influencer marketing. Back in 2015, Kylie Jenner posted about her Casper mattress—giving the then-young brand exposure to over 870,000 followers. Casper’s marketing success through a variety of influencer channels, including review sites, was very much a harbinger of the future of mattress marketing and general consumer awareness across age groups. Perhaps influencers have been larger contributors to the increased focus on sleep for health and wellness.
In addition to the overt influencer marketing approaches on social media and more formal partnerships with brand ambassadors, there are even more subtle and earned ways that consumers are influenced to buy different products. For example, consumers like to know more about how their favorite celebrities live their everyday lives. If a celebrity selects a brand you carry on their own, that’s a form of earned influence. And, when celebrities genuinely enjoy something they will often advocate for the product—and influencers do the same. There’s typically a clear disclosure when it’s a paid partnership versus a product the celebrity or influencer liked and featured on their own. However the sheer prevalence of these partnerships certainly muddies the waters.
So how can you use influence to the benefit of your store and your customers?
The key is to be thoughtful: partner with influencers (you can even work with local influencers if your store is independent or small) or with manufacturers that are making meaningful partnerships with influencers that align with their ethos and values. Authenticity is key. Not only should the partner align with the brand’s values, but studies show that when the influencer has agency over their content and are able to use their knowledge of their fan base to shape the campaign, the campaign is often more successful. Additionally, partnerships that help tout the genuine benefits of a product or help a consumer understand what they’ll get out of a purchase or even what to expect when coming to your store, can help shoppers want to visit and try out your products.
In general, the celebrity focus on health, aging well and taking care of themselves is helping those same goals become more top of mind for regular consumers and in turn, generating a greater interest in sleep—an aspect of our everyday lives that studies continually show is a cornerstone of good health. As we continually see, social influence isn’t just being tapped to sell product. To have fame or credibility today translates to having influence. With robust channels through which to share perspectives, “influencers” of all stripes have numerous opportunities to alter perceptions and drive behavior—for better or for worse. Influence is increasingly a useful educational tool to explore.