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3 Keys from Purple’s Playbook to Move Beyond Male-Centric and Juvenile

Quick: Without Googling it, how long has Purple Innovations been around?

It may surprise you to know that the company formed more than 25 years ago and started out making wheelchairs. When people wanted comfier seats, the founders used the same gel grid technology that would later be used in their mattresses.

Over the years the company has continued to build its brand and expand product offerings and recently Purple’s Vice President of Brand and Executive Creative Director Burke Morley offered up a few brand loyalty secrets at an IdeaStreams session hosted by the High Point Market Authority and the Home Furnishings Association. 

Morley previously worked at companies like Sonic, Nike, and Mood Media (American Eagle, Hollister, etc), and when he joined Purple two years ago, he and other executives discussed the need to adjust their approach. 

Previously, Purple had a very successful campaign called Goldilocks. It exploded the brand and became a standard of how many DTC brands advertise online—long-form character-driven videos that are kind of cheeky.

But since many competitors followed Purple’s lead, Morley had to ask some hard questions. 

“We’ve been a content pioneer for five years, but what does that mean now?” Morley said. “How do we get to new places? Everyone has been following us, so now we need to reinvent how we want to talk about ourselves.”

Throughout the discussion, Morley went into detail about three specific ways businesses can build their brand and stand out. 

  1. Confidence. Morley says that even for Purple it’s been scary to try something new instead of just trying to rehash something that worked before. With the Goldilocks campaign, Morley said after further review that they found it to be male-centric and juvenile, and that it didn’t help them with the female buying segment—which they’ve determined is the segment that makes most of the buying decisions for the bedroom.

    “We wanted to go upmarket and go mass premium, so we had to think of new ways to tell stories,” Morley explained. “One thing we thought of as a team is, let’s use the campaign as a place to jump off with confidence. We can’t lose that confidence to try new things. We want to continue to be content pioneers, which means it’s okay if we swing for the fences and miss. But if we connect on those bigger bets, the reward and returns will be bigger.”

    Morley then recalled something Michael Jordan said in the documentary, “The Last Dance.” MJ talked about how he never worried about a shot he hadn’t taken. He never worried about missing because he had that confidence. “Part of it is being a confident brand and saying we’re going to make something great,” Morley added. “And I’m not saying be blind to things you should be considerate or wary of, but there is something about being brave for sure.”
  2. Uniqueness. Morley explained that he intentionally jumped around in his own career—going from Nike to Sonic to Purple— so that he could build his arsenal of understanding. And because of that, he says he’s found that brand principles carry over from industry to industry.

    “There are just things that work regardless of the industry,” Morley said. “Especially with a store or a collection of stores, it’s about understanding what you bring that’s unique to the audience. We always talk about in the mattress industry that it’s a bit of a bar fight. A lot of it’s driven by sales promotions and holidays. So how do we look at that in a different way so it becomes less about that noise and we can actually tell a different story?”

    As an exercise in being different, when looking at ad ideas Morley says he asks his teammates to cover up the Purple logo, and if they could see any of their competitor’s logos in their place, they’d scrap the ad. 

    And to help them stand out they’ve identified a few things that are uniquely Purple. One is their color palettes—Purple Dusk and Purple Dawn— which include colors like peach, salmon, blue and green, and all have a connection to sleep. Another thing is geometric shapes like diamonds, hexagons, and squares. Finally, they’ve developed SHIF—Show How It Feels—an effort to let people see and feel the difference in Purple’s products instead of just hearing about them. 
  1. Culture. Morley explained that differentiation is built into company culture and that Purple has taken on and embraced the role of the outsider. Morley works with a lot of people who didn’t come from the mattress industry—the head of content made the shows “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “The Aquabats! Super Show!” So he says it’s important to apply new things to an industry that’s been sleepy and consistent without just being wacky for the sake of being wacky.

    “When you’re playing sports, you know the difference between playing to win and playing not to lose,” Morey said. “I think it’s easy when you get a successful business to go, ‘Oh crap, now I have something to lose, how do I not fail?’ That’s a different place than being on offense to continue to grow, be confident. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to know how you play to win and not play to not lose.“

The webinar ended with Morley offering advice to independent brands, including to watch and listen to what customers are doing and why they come into your store. What made them choose you over everyone else?

“It’s easy for noise in a conference room to become truth, even if it’s not,” Morly said. “So how do you shift to listening to the customer and not the CEO or loudest voice in the room? It’s kind of amazing how quickly we stop talking about the customer and what it is that they actually need and want. How do we refocus and understand why they choose us over others, and what it is about them that makes them choose us?

“But you first have to know who you are, who you serve, and what you’re trying to accomplish,” he continues. You spend all that time and money to get them in the door, so spend your time there! And don’t try to squeeze out every dollar. Instead, become a trusted person who they can trust to help them make a good purchase.”

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