Daily Archives: November 25, 2009


Here at The Escape Pod we are very superficial. Because appearance really can be everything. Everyone judges books by their covers. How the hell else are they supposed to judge them? A great cover means your book stands a better chance of being picked up and perused in a crowded bookstore. And so stands a better chance of being purchased. So arguably the packaging – the book design, typeface etc—is more important than the substance: the ideas and writing in the book itself. You only find out later how good or bad the book really is. But only if you buy it first.

In a crowded supermarket the pickle jar with the nicer packaging will probably win out over the dull looking one. The orange juice that shows you the actual juice will win over the greasy cardboard box with a lame picture of an orange on it. You’re buying orange JUICE after all.

Years ago I worked on a mattress brand’s account. The campaign our agency was running was based on the premise that “nobody buys a mattress, they buy a good night’s sleep”. And the ads were all about dreams and such like. It was a classic advertising strategy. Looking at things a bit differently. You know, that “you don’t buy a drill bit you buy a hole” school of lateral ad thinking. It was also completely and 100% wrong. As I dug into the world of mattress sales one of the marketing department impressed on me the fact that in mattress sales 90% of the selling was done in the last “ten yards”. In other words it all happened in the store. but our campaign conveniently ignored this. mostly so we could do cool TV ads.

Another problem with mattresses is that the logo is always obscured by sheets. So you develop zero attachment to the brand. What brand of mattress do you sleep on every night? What brand of mattress do you spend a third of life snoring away on? Bet you don’t even know. Poor mattress!

You see, on average, people buy a new mattress every seven years. And then only because your old mattress has become noticeably uncomfortable. So off they trot to the local mattress emporium where there is ALWAYS a sale on. Mattresses and pianos are always on sale. Because they are purchased so infrequently. And everyone likes a deal.

And so they look at and touch all the mattresses (like they know what they’re doing!). And then, in a frantic effort to make a decision, they lie on a mattress. And it feels good! It feels real good!

Of course it feels good, compared to their crappy mattress at home, anything feels good. And then they lie on a competing mattress. And that one feels good too! And another. They all feel good! Problem: which mattress to choose? They all feel great! Answer: the one with the best point of purchase display. the one with the best packaging.

There was a competing mattress brand to ours that ran a very hard sell ad that showed bowling pins on a mattress. A bowling ball was dropped onto the mattress and not a single pin even stirred. It worked in a very visceral way. It was a single visceral image that stuck in your head. Whether or not it was good thing that none of the pins fell was immaterial. it looked good. It was an image that helped make up your mind BEFORE you went to the confusion of Mattress buying land. It was much better than our more esoteric strategy. Because it was rooted in the reality of the purchase decision. And when you went to the store there was a picture of the bowling ball bouncing on the mattress next to their display. The loop was closed. The advertising and packaging was a true competitive advantage. Ours wasn’t. Bastards!