In which I explore the wild world of mattresses by analyzing the marketing messages in Purple’s viral video, and find myself buying a seat cushion, as well as a mattress
For me, it all started with a promoted post on Facebook, and the fascination continues to this day…
How to Use a Raw Egg to Determine if Your Mattress is Awful – #PURPLE
The Purple Mattress Ad
In the video, Goldilocks introduces viewers to the raw egg test, where raw eggs are placed at the points where the back and hips contact the mattress. The test: if a bed can cradle raw eggs while supporting weight, it’ll also cradle your pressure points while supporting your body for maximum comfort. It supposedly demonstrates the superiority of Purple’s mattress compared to conventional mattresses. The Purple mattress passes the test, eliciting a gasp from Goldilocks. We’re invited to watch as firm, soft, and medium mattresses all fail the test in spectacular fashion. Goldilocks also claims that the Purple mattress has 15 patents, and “was created by an actual rocket scientist.”
The video caught my attention, and being the skeptic that I am, I began investigating deeper into the world of bedding components and the names behind Purple.
The advertisement is a brilliant marketing home run. The ad agency behind the video is none other than The Harmon Brothers, the same agency behind the Squatty Potty advertisement.
Purple Mattress Marketing Claims
- Better night’s sleep
If one takes the raw egg test at face value, it stands to reason that the Purple mattress might just be something special
- Has 15 patents
More information on these patents and their origins can be found on Purple’s About Us page
- Was created by an actual rocket scientist
Without knowing specific projects that Tony worked on in his capacity as an aerospace engineer, I hesitate to call him an actual rocket scientist. It’s possible that he has worked on rockets, though aircraft are more likely. Still, it fits in the vernacular, so I’ll let it pass
- Uses a comfort grid system to distribute weight across any body type
The grid system is self-evident. “Any body type” is a bold statement, and will require some testing
- 100 night trial
Customers may be hesitant to purchase a mattress without the opportunity to try it out. Because the Purple mattress is not sold in retail establishments, the Purple company offers the 100 night trial, matching the low-pressure sales tactic that other B2C online mattress distributors have offered
- Free shipping, low price compared to top-end mattresses
Both strike a chord with value-seeking consumers
Early Marketing Efforts
Purple Raw Egg Test: First Take
This first take is short and sweet. Some of the same visual elements make it to the Goldilocks raw egg test spot, like the goggles, and the breaking of the egg at the end to prove that it’s the real thing.
The Purple Company’s History
Pearce brothers Tony & Terry are industry veterans. Tony is an aerospace engineer, and Terry is an expert in materials and manufacturing.
A Long History of Doing Business
The Pearce brothers have previously done business under the names ZZZest, GelMakers, and EdiZONE. (Purple joins online bedding arena, David Perry for Furniture Today). They’ve been businessmen for at least twenty years judging by their long history of business filings – at least 30 registered entities share Purple’s address (123 E 200 N, Alpine, UT 84004)!
It’s unclear when the Pearce brothers went from B2B and into the B2C arena, or whether such a dramatic shift ever occurred.
EdiZONE | Edison Zone
Founded by the Pearce brothers, EdiZONE LLC’s motto once read, “Helping companies around the world make money.” Their Flash website can be viewed at edizone.com. It states “EdiZONE is a world-wide product design and development company. Our technologies give *your* business the competitive advantage.”
EdiZONE’s Intellectual Property
Gelastic is EdiZONE US 5,994,450. Brief description from defunct EdiZONE website:
Gelastic is a patented (US 5,994,450) oil-extended tri-block copolymer elastomeric gel. It is a thermoplastic material so it can be processed by extrusion, casting, or injection molding. Because the softness is controlled by oil content, Gelastic can be made in a wide range of durometers. In any softness, it is remarkably stronger than other types of elastomeric gels.
Intelli-Gel is EdiZONE US 6,026,527. Brief description from same source as above:
Intelli-Gel is a patented (US 6,026,527) method for using an elastomer to create a cushion with unique properties. Due to a natural phenomenon called column buckling, the cushioned object can sink deeply into the cushion without increasing the unit pressure on the object. Intelli-Gel has applications in any kind of commercial and medical cushioning for humans, vibration isolation, and impact absorption. Intelli-Gel is usually made from GelasticTM which can be found in the materials section. Intelli-Gel can be made to a wide variety of properties by changing the elastomer formulation and the wall and cell dimensions.
GellyCombTM, or Intelli-GelTM, provides cushioning with performance much better than other available cushions. U.S. Patents 5,749,111 and 6,026,527
The intelliBED Connection
Before founding Purple, Tony and Terry Pearce filed a Utah DBA (file number 5895998-0151), dated April 28, 2005 for Intellibed West, with Comforteria LLC as the registered agent.
intelliBED was founded by ACTI President Robert “Bob” Rasmussen, a former employee of EdiZONE. “While at EdiZONE, Rasmussen helped develop the material and set up marketing and manufacturing relationships for the company” (Dan Pearce, quoted by Greg Allen’s post The Real Dadbloggers of Utah County).
intelliBED’s About Us page (intellibed.com/about-intellibed/) states that the company was founded in 2000, and that their products are made in their Salt Lake City headquarters. They claim Intelli-Gel® as their proprietary technology, and made a series of mattresses and a mattress topper to take advantage of customer segments. The intelliBED page on the material (intellibed.com/research/intelligel/) states that the gel material is a “Space-age co-polymer called Gelastic.”
Deeper on the intelliBED website, we see that intelliBED licensed EDiZONE’s intellectual property.
intelliBED shared a press release following the December 11, 2008 ruling by Judge Randall Skanchy in Utah State Court granting Advanced Comfort Technologies, Inc. (ACTI), better known as intelliBED, a permanent injunction against EdiZONE LLC, Sunshine Manufacturing, and MyComfort Stores (chiroaustin.com/press release.pdf). The ruling in ACTI v. EdiZONE, case 060910483, upheld ACTI’s exclusive rights to sell Intelli-Gel consumer mattresses.
Without a paid subscription to XChange, I am unable to find additional information on the matter. I do note that EdiZONE filed an appeal in the ruling (Case No. 20090037-CA, PDF).
What’s in a Name?
Per the Purple website’s About Us page:
Why Purple™? Well, why not? It is an awesome color, and it signifies treating everyone like royalty. The Pearces have spent most of their high-tech careers advancing the world of cushioning. With Purple™, they know they have put all they’ve learned into the world’s greatest bed, and they’ve figured out how to do it so everyone can afford it.
The Pearces launched their Kickstarter project on September 23, 2015 (kickstarter.com/projects/227992716/purple-the-latest-technology-in-comfort-and-sleep)
Previously, the Pearce brothers marketed the material under the tradename WonderGel. WonderGel is colored blue, and at the time of writing, it’s still possible to find WonderGel products on Amazon.com. WonderGel’s website (WonderGel.com) remains active as of press time.
More on the Purple Company’s history: Read the Shopify case study “How This Purple Mattress 20 Years in the Making Became an Overnight Success with Shopify Plus”
Marketing for the Purple material appears throughout, with more at onpurple.com/science
Benefit selling for the material revolves around greater heat flux (read: no hot spots), neutral pressure, and neutral alignment of spine (especially important for side sleepers).
Surprise: Purple’s Hyper-Elastic PolymerTM Isn’t Unique to Purple
In online discussion surrounding the Purple material, I saw reference to SomniGel (beddingcomponents.com/somnigel.asp, somnigel.com). Leggett & Platt Inc., a leader in bedding components, licensed the same technology that is used in Purple. On the bottom of the SomniGel site, in small lettering, “SomniGel® is a trademark of EdiZONE LLC Alpine, UT.” Leggett & Platt brought the material to market under the tradename SomniGel. In Leggett & Platt’s marketing efforts, they demonstrate the material’s extraordinary elasticity by filming elephants standing and lying atop the gel. Once the elephants move off, the material returns to its original shape.
A Leggett & Platt study conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Research at Kansas State University validated the material’s heat transfer properties as compared to memory foam (L&P study validates SomniGel’s ‘cool factor’, BedTimes).
I shared the video and onPurple website with family. Hope commented that the material looked like the stuff inside of backpack shoulder straps. This is because the stuff inside of backpack shoulder straps also came from EdiZONE – the product in that application was called Gellycomb, licensed to JanSport in January 1999.
New and Upcoming Purple Products
The Purple Pillow
The Purple company launched a new Kickstarter campaign on September 22, 2016, announcing the Purple Pillow: The World’s First No-Pressure Head Bed (Kickstarter.com).
I was curious whether the Purple company had any intention of bringing a gel mattress topper to market. I followed up on this with a new article: Will Purple Release a Mattress Topper?. This would make a great product for consumers operating on a tighter budget, or for those with newer mattresses that would like to experience Purple’s cushioning technology.
Partway through researching this article, I placed an order on a 2-inch Royal Purple seat cushion to experience firsthand what all the noise is about (MSRP $79.99, Amazon.com). It’s been treating me great, and I’m really pleased with the purchase. I’ve shared my review of the Royal Purple seat cushion.
The Pearce brothers’ go-to-market strategy probably mirrors that originally taken by intelliBED. intelliBED offers the intelliPILLOW, a foam core pillow topped with Intelli-Gel, and supported by an adjustable, hand pumpable air chamber that lifts the pillow up to two inches. If I were a gambling man, I’d wager that the Pearce brothers are building up Purple to be a long fuck you to Robert Rasmussen, and they’re doing a great job by the looks of things.
From a product standpoint, little has changed. Yet Purple has the potential to be a runaway success and a household name, where intelliBED and intelli-GEL will ultimately be forgotten.
Key determinants to Purple’s initial success revolve around social proof and more competitive pricing.
I’m working on a review of the Purple Mattress. I’ll publish my review once I’ve collected sufficient sleep data to assess the marketing claims mentioned earlier. You can expect objective sleep data, courtesy of my Misfit Shine activity tracker.
I have also reached out to Purple to inquire about becoming a Purple affiliate, but have yet to receive a response.
- 20161115: Added link to my Royal Purple Seat Cushion review, updated Next Actions
- 20161005: Added new text blocks – The Purple Pillow, Personal Thoughts, and Next Actions. Additional content to elaborate on the intelliBED connection, and structural changes for readability
- 20160923: Additional content, prettified several links
- 20160916: Fixed a broken link
- 20160907: Minor formatting changes for readability, added a missing link for the Royal Purple No Pressure Seat Cushion