Every once in a while, a company comes along making such sudden traction you have to sit up and take notice, particularly when it's selling something nearly everyone already owns and seldom needs to replace. I'm talking bed mattresses here and somehow the folks at Purple Mattress recently managed to raise $2.6 million on Kickstarter and within the last year skyrocket sales to "tens of millions of dollars." The Utah-based company also plans to do three times what competitor Casper (a FastCompany Innovation by Design finalist in 2015) did its first year, thanks to YouTube and Facebook videos people are viewing and sharing like crazy. Here are the strategies a couple of Purple Mattress executives say any company can use to get a product to go viral.
1. Provide real value.
And what's more valuable than a good night's sleep? At the same time, beds likely aren't the first thing that comes to mind when you think about innovative products. But CEO Sam Bernards says the technology behind the company's mattresses have been licensed by big name companies for years--Nike, JanSport and Dr. Scholl's--as well as various medical equipment companies. "[It] had its genesis inside the medical technology arena for seat cushions for wheelchairs and for medical beds, in which our technology was actually able to radically reduce, and in some cases eliminate bed sores and compression sores for [people] in wheelchairs," he says.
2. Use video to evoke some kind of emotion (such as disbelief).
If you want your product to go viral, you need a video to do it first. Purple Mattress accomplished this feat via a "Goldilocks" piece that has garnered nearly 18 million views on YouTube, not to mention countless shares on Facebook. Time and again, the company drops impossibly heavy sheets of tempered glass--up to 1,400 pounds--onto raw eggs sitting atop a bed. After seeing the eggs not break, two thoughts came to me the first time I watched the nearly four-minute production. First, "No way. That can't possibly be real." (It is--customers try it on their own and post their selfie-videos on Facebook)." And, "I can't believe I'm still watching this longish ad." (Like everyone else, my attention span is shrinking to shamefully low levels, yet there I sat.)
What's more important than brevity and appeasing people who impatiently flit around the internet? Telling a compelling story and using a voice that's authentic to your brand. "I would say a reason why we've been maybe more successful than others with our content and on social is because there's also emotion tied to it, and that emotion in this instance is humor," says CMO Alex McArthur. "I don't think every company would have to use humor as their emotion--it could be something else."
3. Forget about targeted advertising.
If true virality is what you're going for, you want as many people as possible to know about what you're selling and why they need it. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you shouldn't be spending dollars on high-converting AdWords. "We focus on mass amounts of people for pennies using our videos on YouTube and Facebook," Bernards says.