How to Create a Brand People Can’t Forget: Purple Mattress on Product, Voice, and Culture

How to Create a Brand People Can’t Forget: Purple Mattress on Product, Voice, and Culture

There are almost 200 competitors that we know of in our industry. And this isn’t counting traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

Many of the hundreds of bed-in-a-box companies that we track have sprung up in the last five years thanks to the simplicity of starting an online mattress company:

One, source foam from China. Two, throw a label on a shipping package. Three, sell the product over the internet.

With the mattress industry reaching over $15 billion last year, it’s easy to see why hungry entrepreneurs want a piece of the mattress pie.

Image via Online Mattress Review
But none of that really matters … not when you create a brand that’s unforgettable.

Early on at Purple, we established momentum with our branding. Since then, we’ve double down and use it as a competitive advantage. We have a strong creative team (which is larger than our advertising or user acquisition teams), and we hired a Chief Brand Officer early last year.

I want to talk about how it all started, and what you can do to build your company’s brand. 


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1. Start with a Unique Product

The “secret sauce” that makes our products unique began as a wheelchair seat cushion, invented by two brothers about two decades ago.

These two brothers made seat cushions and other products, licensed out versions of their proprietary technology, and eventually used the proceeds to develop their own machinery, which could make their material large enough for a king-sized mattress.

Thus, Purple and the No Pressure™ mattress were born. And yes, our mattresses actually are the color purple.

Saying you should “start with a unique product” in order to create a brand may sound obvious, but the more competitive your market — and the lower its barrier to entry — the more essential this becomes.

Unfortunately, it’s a foundation too many companies forget.

Nothing can replace your product. It’s the heart and soul of your brand. And yet, just like anybody or building, that’s merely the start …

2. Prove Your Product’s Value

In a space as competitive and fast-growing as ours, we knew that having proprietary technology wasn’t enough. Selling the world’s best product is great, but if no one understands what makes you special or remembers your brand, you’re S.O.L. (sh*t out of luck).

That’s why, from the very beginning, we set about differentiating our product from the masses.

For us, this meant:

  1. Creating content that highlighted the science behind Purple
  2. Making that science come to life, and
  3. Majoring on social proof

Purple’s original Kickstarter page did all this.

We used gifs …

Comparison charts backed by third-party validation …

Major brands that had already licensed our technology …

And an army of reviews and testimonials …

Still, as foundational as all that was, it was also product-centric content.

No matter how much proof you provide, a product doesn’t in and of itself make a brand. So what does?

3. Develop a Brand Voice

Purple has achieved unprecedented growth since it launched in January 2016, and a large chunk of that initial growth and ongoing brand loyalty can be attributed to its unforgettable voice. Which, in large part, started with one of the founders’ twenty-something daughter whose quirky, millennial voice pervaded the company’s initial marketing materials.

For example, here’s how she initially described the Royal Purple® Seat Cushion in Purple’s Kickstarter campaign:

Our most comfortable seat cushion in 26 years of product development! Give your butt the royal treatment it deserves everywhere you sit — that could be your car, the office, the big game, or wherever your imagination takes you.

Today, we use Shopify Scripts to enable more advanced discounting logic, which gives us the chance to create more dynamic customer promotions. This allows us to offer customers the Royal Purple® Seat Cushion or Purple™ Sheets as free gifts with the purchase of a new mattress.

The competition quickly paled against Purple’s snarky, humorous, and informal brand voice. It resonated with consumers. It made shopping for a mattress entertaining and fun, rather than boring and tedious. It kept consumers coming back and engaging with the brand on social media.

At Purple, we recognized this effect quickly and ran with it. We knew that as a new company in a competitive space our brand was a currency, and we dedicated to accruing as much in the brand “bank” as possible.

Like Disney and Apple, we believe a brand’s relationship with people works like a bank account. Every time we engage someone, we make either a withdrawal or deposit. When growing a new company, it’s critical to have a positive balance, otherwise you risk being eclipsed by competitors.

4. Make Your Branding Ubiquitous

The challenge at Purple quickly became clear: How do you take the organic voice of a brilliant twenty-something girl and make it the standard for an entire company? How do you make a unique brand voice consistent across marketing platforms, customer service, product presentation, and company culture?

It’s a challenge Purple addresses every day. In trying to maintain Purple’s playful brand, we’ve picked up on a couple pragmatic ways to infuse the brand into everything we do. We created iconic brand characters like Goldilocks for the “The Raw Egg Test,” which has been viewed more than 120 million times, and Sasquatch Mom for the Purple Protector:

But a brand is more than just what consumers see in advertising …

It has to extend to everything, from customer emails to the on-hold messaging in our call center, to the labels on our product packaging and our internal holiday party invitations.

Everything at Purple gets “Purple-ified.”

For us, pop culture references, puns, and wordplay are sprinkled into everything we do like Easter eggs. Whatever your brand voice is, make sure it’s ubiquitous and found in delightful places most people wouldn’t expect.

5. Be Dynamic, Not Singular

After walking through several brand exercises at Purple, we realized our brand wasn’t just one thing. It couldn’t — and can’t — be summed up in one word or one sentence.

A brand is a chorus of synonyms that share one or two sentiments. A brand is not a solo act, but an orchestra that comes together in harmony.

Savannah Turk, Director of Communications at Purple

That harmony isn’t always easy to find, especially when you have two very different components to your brand.

For example, Purple is a blend of science and humor. And if you’ve ever spent much time in an engineering lab, you understand how those two things can seem at odds. But marrying those ideas makes our brand unique, and it’s the creative, new ways we discover to do that, which make our brand dynamic.

Recognizing the ubiquity and multiplicity of brand means investing in one final ingredient …

6. Hire for Culture

When you have a unique brand, or if you want to develop one, hire folks who understand your brand in a natural, organic way.

At Purple, we’ve found it’s much easier to reel in people who want to take our brand voice a step too far than to train someone how to be “Purple-y” when it isn’t natural.

While we do a lot of training to refresh employees on our brand voice, we’re able to rely on these inherently Purple-y people to reinforce our brand day-to-day. Those employees quickly become mentors and leaders because of their deep understanding of our brand voice and help infuse it into our customer-facing materials as well as internal communications.

Find your internal brand advocates and give them a soapbox to shout from.

Final Thoughts on How to Create a Brand

There is no right or wrong way to build a brand, as long as it’s consistent and true to who your company is.

Brand has been a powerful way for Purple to stand out in a sea of new competitors, and it has allowed us to better showcase our unique products.

We’ve invested heavily in developing and maintaining our brand voice, and will continue to do so because we see the power it has with consumers and employees.

About the Author

Savannah Turk is the Director of Communications at Purple. She graduated from the University of Utah and has a background in journalism. She’s an avid traveler and has been to four continents, with a goal to visit all seven.

When she’s not being a master communicator, Savannah can be found at the boxing gym or playing a game of pool at the local pub.