What happens when today’s connected Millennials have bad experiences at mattress retailers? Sure, they vent in social media, but some—like the founders of new mattress brand Casper Sleep—take things a step further. They attract $1.6 million in venture capital and start their own e-commerce mattress brand, targeting dissatisfied Gen Y-ers.
Watch New York-based Casper Sleep’s tongue-in-cheek promotional video, “The Instrument of Our Dreams,” and you’ll get a good idea of the company’s marketing strategy and raison d’etre. The video includes a “frightening” sleep-shop vignette with a retail sales associate who could pass for actor John Goodman in some of his scariest roles.
Casper launched in April and has garnered unprecedented media attention for a mattress brand. Techie news sites like TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web and The Verge, as well as mainstream outlets—CBS News, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek—have all covered the e-tailer. (It helped that the company shipped free mattresses to assorted reporters—although not Sleep Savvy’s—for testing.)
The company’s product lineup consists of a single, all-foam SKU. The Casper is 10 inches tall, single-sided and composed of polyurethane base foam layered with memory foam and topped with synthetic latex. The panel fabric is a stretch knit. Borders are dressed in a contrasting upholstery-style woven. The mattress-only price tag in queen is $850. The company does not sell foundations and recommends placing the bed on a platform-style base.
Beds ship via UPS, compressed and folded into a box the size of a “mini-fridge,” as one reporter described it. In New York, delivery via bicycle courier is available, too.
In media interviews, Philip Krim, company co-founder and chief executive officer, has described Casper as the answer to traditional mattress retailers, which he told TechCrunch offer “a terrible consumer experience, all around.”
He says that Casper “cuts out the middleman” with a “direct-to-consumer business model;” although, the company does not claim to own the means of production. Beds are sourced from an undisclosed Atlanta mattress manufacturer.
Krim, 30, is a seasoned e-commerce executive, having founded The Merrick Group while a student at the University of Texas. He compares his company with other category disruptors, such as the e-commerce site Warby Parker, which sells prescription eyewear for a flat $100 per pair.
The Casper website is amusing, irreverent and prominently proclaims the product’s “risk-free, 40-night trial.” Like most online retailers, easy returns are a big part of the sales pitch.
“Why try a bed for 15 minutes, when you can try it for 40 nights?” the Casper site says. “Don’t be fooled by the games played in showrooms. If you don’t like your Casper within the first 40 nights, simply give us a call, and we’ll arrange to come pick up the mattress at your convenience and issue a full refund.”
While the bed’s construction is not unique and its price tag offers plenty of room for a hefty margin, the new brand’s carefully crafted air of transparency, guided by its youthful, entrepreneurial and tech-savvy owners, appears to be resonating with the younger set. It will be worth watching to see if Casper has mined a successful niche.