The Power of Storytelling as a Customer Acquisition Strategy

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With three years of mattress marketing backed by nearly thirty years of technological advancements, Purple has made a name for themselves as more than a mattress company. At CommerceNext 2019, Joe Megibow, CEO of Purple Mattress, shared how Purple not only innovated on their patented signature polymer grid but also in their use of storytelling to drive customer acquisition and direct to consumer sales.

Megibow has been with Purple since October of 2018 as CEO, previously serving as the chief digital officer for American Eagle Outfitters. He discusses his unique approach to reaching an audience beyond the realm of brick and mortar mattress salesmen and Amazon DTC deals. 

Purple spends up to $200,000 per marketing campaign with the goal of driving brand recognition and attention. Their intention? Going viral and ultimately drive direct to consumer sales. Rather than target their audience from the perspective of sales- in a market saturated with ads instructing consumers how to “buy a better mattress- Megibow explained that the method to Purple’s online to success falls largely in the hands of a somewhat unorthodox in-house group: their marketing team is peppered with stand-up comedians. You’ve likely seen their concise yet comical video titled “The Raw Egg Test,” beginning with the bluntest of questions: “What’s a good way to tell that your bed is awful?”

The signature comic format of these digital shorts has become synonymous with the Purple brand—combining comic relief with tangible technological demonstrations, such as dropping a giant plate of glass onto two raw eggs sitting on the Purple mattress (spoiler: they don’t break!).

Purple’s most recent and perhaps most notorious set of digital shorts presents a silly yet effective solution to a real social problem; many individuals who report an inability to fall asleep are up late at night on their phones. Moreover, Purple’s research showed that this phenomenon occurs most frequently on Sundays, under the guise of the “Sunday Scaries” and an impending week’s worth of work. In targeting this research not just towards the sale of mattresses, but towards a solution to this “social insomnia”, Purple’s marketing team (alongside comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wilheim) created The Purple Boys—a six-episode content series that is optimized to view on your mobile device, delivering content week to week meant to soothe your Sunday Scaries.

This campaign reached viral heights, with 8.5 million views, over 35,000 shares, 32,000 comments, and a 3.4x return on their ad spend in just twelve weeks. The astounding returns on this campaign have become the signature of Purple’s marketing efforts, as they pursue momentum in maintaining the viral status of their ads and videos. You may recognize some of their videos from your Youtube suggested list rather than from an Instagram ad, with video titles like “Purple Platform Sumos” and “Life Can Be a Pain in the Butt, But Now Sitting Doesn’t Have to Be.” 

In their review of Purple’s keynote, CO by the US Chamber of Commerce highlighted how Purple’s storytelling has evolved from viral videos to also including targeted stories reaching smaller but highly specific audiences. In endeavoring to tell stories for, as well as about its consumers, Purple is able to evolve the brand to reflects different consumer needs, as well as presents the benefits of their products. 

Megibow revealed that his team spends nearly 30% of their revenue on customer acquisition and marketing, yet the highest-rated self-reported way that their customers hear about Purple is through word of mouth. Storytelling as a method of customer acquisition allows Purple’s community to not only share in the experience of the product, but also in the stories they share themselves. By extending their marketing efforts towards the storytelling power of influencers, they are able to leverage the power of communities beyond their in-house ads. This evolution maintains their status as viral storytellers while allowing them to evolve and reach a greater audience through the testimonials of their consumers. 

Existing and marketing in an increasingly social space, a direct to consumer brand’s greatest resource for customer acquisition is routed through the customers themselves. Megibow delves into Purple’s influencer strategy, where they are leveraging their viral presence into content that represents the real people who own their mattresses. Tapping into a base beyond the consumer of “Sunday Scaries” content, Purple is now pursuing an influencer strategy that places emphasis on the female “head of household.” These key influencers lean into the storytelling power of Purple while writing their unique narratives as the purveyor and provider of the modern American household. Their effort towards viral status with a narrative backbone, Purple is about to disperse their marketing efforts into new channels extending beyond the realm of humor, all the while maintaining the community of fans that stems from their product. 

You can watch the full keynote on our YouTube channel here.

To get more insights like these, apply to attend CommerceNext 2020 today. The conference will take place on July 28-29th in NYC. Inc.com named CommerceNext one of "Top 5 ECommerce Conferences for 2019 and 2020." We hope you'll join us this summer.

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