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How Casper Created A Cult Following Using Social Media

All photos courtesy of Casper

It almost goes without saying these days that we are living in an era of disruption. From electric vehicles and solar roofs to the sharing economy and driverless cars.

The fascinating thing about disruptive companies is that they can manage to completely upend traditional systems (and generational brands) by refusing to do things the way they’ve always been done. One industry category that has experienced a lot of disruption over the last few years is one you might not expect...mattresses.

That’s right. Mattresses.

A few months ago, a friend of mine moved into a new apartment and was in the market for a new bed. Before she decided on one, she wrote down the name of about ten furniture stores within 30 miles and visited each of them. My girlfriend and I tagged along, but I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the choices. Between the different brands, the firmness ratings, and the different type of mattresses it just seemed like a daunting task.

For years, this overwhelming experience has been what it’s been like to buy a new mattress. That is until Casper came on to the scene and pioneered the new “bed in a box” category that has since sprouted plenty of look-alike competitors.

We were joined in San Francisco last February by Casper’s VP of Communications and Brand Engagement Lindsay Kaplan and VP of Marketing, Acquisition & Retention Theresa Rockovich, who talked a little bit about how Casper has managed to grow from a 0 to a $200M company in just a few years, in part by developing a powerful social strategy and creating a cult following around a product category that has never seen anything like it.

Part of the reason for Casper’s cult like following is their unique business model. Casper doesn’t have retail locations and until a recently announced partnership with Target, they have only been exclusively sold through their website. Casper’s mattresses are designed in a way that they can literally be shipped in a box right to a customer’s doorstep, completely eliminating the need of going through an overwhelming retail experience.

When talking about how Casper approached the goal of creating a cult following, Rockovich said that they took inspiration from other disruptive brands like Dollar Shave Club and Soul Cycle, which had managed to grow a community of obsessive brand advocates.

One of the first questions the team had to pose to themselves was “Why would anyone follow a mattress brand on social media”?

The answer they came up with is that Casper doesn’t just sell mattresses, they are in the business of sleep.

Aside from increasing their product offerings to include pillows, sheets and dog beds, the Casper team decided that they would talk about all aspects of sleep on social media and do so with a brand voice that thinks it’s weird to follow a mattress company. They focus on fun content that assumes that everyone is in on the joke.

As Theresa Rockovich said, consumers have far more important issues vying for their attention on social news feeds, which opens up an opportunity for brands to provide a little levity to their customers’ days rather than trying to constantly target them with coupons.

When the company was first starting out, they only had a budget of $30,000 for marketing which is why the marketing team decided to focus on one to one conversations through social. They were also lucky enough to have some celebrity investors who were able to throw their weight behind the brand early, so when one of those celebrities would post about Casper on their social pages, the marketing team would amplify that content by spending against it. Not every brand is lucky enough to have celebrities endorsing their product, but the key takeaway from how Casper approaches social is that they create entertaining content and when they find out a piece of content is doing well, they amplify it through paid ads.

Another great lesson learned from the Casper team is that it’s important to have a company culture where it’s okay to fail. It’s important to be constantly iterating and testing. As they said at #SMSSummit, “You can’t optimize without figuring out what’s not working.”

One of the major keys to Casper's success on social is their focus on one to one conversations. Social networks are meant to be two-way conversations, but far too many businesses simply use these platforms as a way to push content without also listening to what their community has to say. For this reason, Casper makes sure that every comment gets a response, or at the very least, a “like”. This lets your audience know that you see them and that you appreciate them taking time out of their day to engage with your brand’s page. Just these simple gestures will go a long way in helping to create obsessive brand advocates.

Going back to earlier in this article when I mentioned the idea that everyone following Casper is "in on the joke", they also carry this mentality in their approach to content marketing on their blogs. These days consumers are becoming very aware that they are being sold to through advertorials, so Casper has decided to be transparent in their attempt to sell to their audience. They even wrote a blog entitled "7 Reasons This Blog Post Is Trying To Sell You A Mattress". It's this type of approach which shows that the brand doesn't take itself too seriously, which allows consumers to connect in a more authentic way. 

 

Wake us up when it's time to go home.

A post shared by Casper (@casper) on Jul 10, 2017 at 11:43am PDT

Speaking of not taking themselves too seriously, one of Casper’s weekly traditions is to “murder” an alarm clock every Monday on Snapchat. They drowned one, threw one from a window, had one ran over by a taxicab, and even buried one alive (still plugged in). This is a super fun way to give their customers a cathartic experience while staying on-brand. It’s through this kind of content that Casper speaks to both the struggle and joy associated with sleeping, which allows customers to draw an emotional connection to the brand.

It’s also important to remember that being social doesn’t have to stay within the confines of a specific social platform. Another cool campaign Casper tested out was building a chatbot they called “InsomnoBot 3000”, which people could text between the hours of 11pm-5am “to provide an instant conversation when it feels like everyone in your contacts is already asleep”.

These sort of brand initiatives are evaluated differently than transactional advertising. Rather than focusing on cost-per-click or cost-per-acquisition, you are able to measure brand awareness or conversation. For instance, when Casper unveiled the InsomnoBot300 it garnered attention from Teen Vogue, CNET and other well-trafficked media outlets which isn’t something that typically happens from a post on social media.

A few last key pieces of advice from Lindsay Kaplan and Theresa Rockovich’s #SMSSummit San Francisco presentation about how to create a cult following:

  • Important to be a first-mover on new apps ---- you should be frequently visiting the app store and downloading new apps just to learn about the functionality so that you can begin to see if there is an opportunity for your brand to live natively.

  • Important to stay up to date with news/trends ---- similar to being a first mover on new apps, it’s important to be a first-mover when it comes to pop culture trends & news stories. This allows your brand to engage in the conversation in a relevant and creatively entertaining way.

You can actually download and listen to the MP3 file of the presentation this blog is based on (along with hundreds of others) from our #SMSSummit Content Library for free! Just sign up by clicking the banner below:

 

Don't forget that #SMSSummit will be returning to NYC in October! You can even save $600 on our early bird special if you register before 8/4. Register here! 

 

Kaliko Castille photo

Kaliko Castille (@WizKaliko) manages partnerships for GSMI’s conference portfolio, including #SMSSummit & #SRSC. He is a self-taught digital marketer, brand strategist, and entrepreneur who is endlessly fascinated by how the internet is constantly creating new ways for both humans and brands to connect.

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