Better Sleep Council: A sound message for sound sleep

For more than 35 years, the Better Sleep Council has moved the industry forward by helping you help consumers get a good night’s sleep. Today, it’s stronger and more committed than ever to promoting healthy sleep for healthy sales

Quick—name the three major components of a healthy life.

Diet, exercise and sleep—you knew that, didn’t you?

Cute woman sleeps on the white bedNow think about consumers. Do you think they could name all three? Most probably could rattle off exercise and healthy eating without too much trouble. But would sleep make their top three? If they’re hearing the messages put out by the Better Sleep Council, they probably would know just how important sleep is to their health—both physical and mental.

For 36 years, the BSC has been speaking directly to consumers. Whether it’s media campaigns around “May is Better Sleep Month” or gathering sleep statistics and conducting research, it consistently has publicized and promoted information on how sleep affects everyone’s quality of life. And it emphasizes that a healthy and productive life starts with a quality mattress.

A sleep story

In the late 1970s, members of the International Sleep Products Association realized the need to bring together professionals from across the bedding industry to educate consumers on how choosing the right mattress can lead to a richer life. They united behind a common cause, and the concept of the BSC was born.

BSC adThe formula goes something like this: you + a quality mattress = a good night’s sleep.

“It’s the backbone of everyone’s business,” says Ron Passaglia, president of Restonic Mattress Corp., with offices in Buffalo, New York, Chicago and Atlanta, and chairman of ISPA. He served as chair of the BSC for a number of its early years. “It’s the core of what we all do.”

As the consumer-education arm of ISPA, the BSC acts as an independent third party promoting sleep and is a credible source for information and tips—from how to create the perfect sleep sanctuary to how to shop for a mattress.

“The BSC is a really unique, wonderful, talented collection of experts in bedding. We’re competitors in some ways, but we check our titles at the door,” says Pete Bils, chair of the BSC and vice president of sleep innovation and director of clinical sleep research for Sleep Number in Minneapolis. “We truly collaborate and share all these different perspectives which create a rich flow of ideas.”

Passaglia remembers illustrating that point by wearing a black hat with his company’s logo into a meeting and then exchanging it for a white hat with the BSC logo. The council members got the point. And it’s still true today.

closeup of woman asleepMark Hobson, vice chair of the BSC and president of Colonial LLC in High Point, North Carolina, notes that the BSC is made up of a smart, experienced group of professionals. “There is so much talent and brain power in that group,” he says.

On the campaign trail

With this collaboration of experts, a number of ideas have led to media campaigns that have successfully brought sleep and mattresses to the forefront.

“The elements of sleep have never been higher in the mindset of the consumer,” Passaglia says.

Some of these have been helped by the BSC’s “May is Better Sleep Month” campaign. Each year a new campaign debuts in the spring to get the word out about the relationship between quality, restorative sleep and a good mattress. Recent campaigns have included the taglines: “Get on Top of a New Mattress and Get to the Bottom of Your Sleep Problems,” “Stop Sleeping Around” and “Sleepocalypse.”

Other campaigns have centered on New Year’s resolutions and daylight saving time—a perfect opportunity to talk about sleep. (Look for a new daylight saving time promotion in 2015.)

The sleep products industry is encouraged to use these promotions, as well as BSC surveys, research and artwork, to talk to consumers about sleep. And retailers, manufacturers and suppliers alike are encouraged to link to the vast resources available at the BSC’s website—Bettersleep.org.

Social media also has given rise to opportunities to spread the message throughout the year. The BSC has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

“It’s not always easy to find that sweet spot, but the BSC seems to have figured out what that is—helping consumers understand that their sleep system is the solution to a better quality of life,” Hobson says.

What’s missing from this equation?

These days many websites and experts detail how to get a good night’s sleep. They mention a number of good things—no strenuous exercise two hours before bed, limit caffeine to mornings and early afternoons, put away any screens an hour before bed, set your thermostat to 65 degrees. What’s missing? They often don’t mention mattresses as a critical component to get a better night’s sleep, Bils says.

Thomas Wright
Original member Tom Wright, former president of Wright of Thomasville (now Wright Global Graphic Solutions) and the Better Sleep Council’s first president, signed his name on a banner that reflected the industry’s support for the public relations effort in 1978.

“We want to educate the public through the media about what a mattress can do for you,” he says. “We know people understand this. They are prompted to buy a new mattress when they sleep somewhere else, and it’s so much nicer than what they have at home.”

The BSC wants consumers to know that they should evaluate their mattress every seven years for comfort and support. “We all change over time,” Bils says. “Your bed also changes over time.”

Consumers also need to put mattress shopping into context. We spend one-third of our lives between the sheets. Or to look at it another way, over the next 30 days, you will spend 10 days in bed.

“When you put it in perspective, the mattress is the most important piece of furniture in the house,” he says.  

Consumer focus

Communicating the benefits of slumber is just one aspect of the BSC. Another focus is giving potential customers the tools they need before they go shopping.

Because mattresses aren’t replaced yearly, consumers often find themselves bewildered by the array of choices and variety of price points that reflect today’s new comfort technologies.

“We want customers to see the value of investing in a mattress,” says council member Stephen Stickler, vice president of Ashley Sleep, headquartered in Arcadia, Wisconsin. “We need to continue to educate consumers about the new technologies and mattress designs available to them.”

Many consumers still expect to spend $300 to $400 for a mattress, when they would easily spend $1,000 on a new television that is obsolete in three to four years due to changing technology, he says.

That’s where the BSC’s message of the role of sleep in a happy, healthy lifestyle comes in. “We need to stay in front of consumers with the message that sleep is important to their health, work and life … and correlate that quality of sleep to the sleep set,” Stickler says.

Currently, the BSC website offers basic information

on the main mattress types, how to prepare to shop for a mattress and what steps will help shoppers choose the best sleep system. In the future, the BSC is considering other tools that will help consumers think through their individual needs and preferences before they shop. For example, do they have an injury or other medical concern? Do children or pets share the bed? Do they toss and turn?

The idea is to help customers get comfortable by being better prepared. “It’s like stretching before going on a run,” says Mary Helen Uusimaki, vice president of marketing and communications for the BSC and ISPA. “They will be more fit shoppers and more willing to buy the best mattress they can afford.”

Plans for the new year

Lissa Coffey
Lissa Coffey

The BSC is planning to roll out fun and interactive public-relations campaigns this year around the idea that sleep, along with diet and exercise, make up the “three-legged stool” of a healthy lifestyle. Like a stool missing a leg, without a balance between these three essentials, you will fall over.

In March, when daylight saving time comes around, five to seven bloggers will be invited to participate in a sleep challenge, and the BSC will promote the research results. In May, as the finale to Better Sleep Month, passersby in select cities will be asked to sit on a two-legged stool and participate in other promotions that will lead to a better understanding of how sleep loss affects all areas of life.

Plans also are in place to partner with the United Kingdom’s Sleep Council for cross-promotion, Uusimaki says.

In addition to these ambitious plans and ongoing social media campaigns, two spokeswomen will continue to share the messages of the BSC through blogs, videos, public-speaking engagements and more. Lissa Coffey is a lifestyle, relationship and wellness expert and author based in Westlake Village, California. Terry Cralle is a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator in Fairfax, Virginia.

Benefits on the sales floor

Terry Cralle
Terry Cralle

While the BSC primarily communicates with the media and consumers, it gives retailers a way to build rapport with their customers, Hobson says.

“There are good resources on the website, and the customer is better informed when they come into the store,” he says. “If you train people on what’s on the website, it gives them some common ground.”

Trent Ranburger, owner of Trent Bedding Co. in Bowling Green, Kentucky, sees the benefits of the BSC in his business.

His retail sales associates have learned to talk with customers about their sleep habits and what they might want and need. They can then use information provided by the BSC and BedTimes sister publication Sleep Savvy, which the BSC launched in 2002, to talk knowledgeably about sleep and how a mattress supports restful nights and energized days.

Ranburger has used many of the BSC campaigns in his own advertising. (See Trent Bedding’s take on the BSC’s “Stop Sleeping Around” campaign in this television commercial.)

“It’s national marketing, national education,” he says. “It ties us into the bigger picture.”

All of the research, the media campaigns and social media content provide information that makes a difference to retailers and consumers.

The BSC is valuable and instrumental, he says. “I 100% believe it is.” 


BSC logo Mission

Established in 1979, the Better Sleep Council is the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association and devoted to educating the public about the critical relationship between sleep, good health and quality of life, as well as the value of the mattress and sleep environment in pursuit of a good night’s sleep. With an unbiased voice, the BSC is comprised of bedding leaders and sleep experts who represent a cross section of the mattress industry.

May is better sleep month logoFollow along

Get the latest information on sleep articles and research by following the Better Sleep Council on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

BSC leadership

The Better Sleep Council is governed by volunteers from across the sleep products industry, including manufacturers, suppliers and retailers. The following currently serve on the BSC:

Pete Bils, Chairman
Vice President, Sleep Innovation & Director, Clinical Sleep Research, Sleep Number

Mark Hobson, Vice Chairman
President, Colonial LLC

Jimmy Orders, Chairman Emeritus
President, Park Place Corporation

Rick Anthony
Director of Sales, HSM Bedding Solutions

Robin Azevedo
President, McRoskey Mattress Co.

Mary Best
Editor in Chief, Sleep Savvy

Sean Bergman
Chief Marketing Officer, PureCare

Roger Coffey
President, Latexco West/Sleep Comp West

Karrie Forbes
Executive Vice President of Marketing, Mattress Firm

Scott Frisch
Division President, Springs Creative Products Group LLC

Mark Kinsley
Staff Vice President of Marketing, Leggett & Platt Inc.

Doug McQuillan
Vice President of Category Management, Tempur Sealy International

Michelle Montgomery
Vice President of Marketing Communications, Simmons Bedding Co.

Dan Schecter
Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Carpenter Co.

Stephen Stickler
Vice President, Ashley Sleep

Mary Helen Uusimaki
Vice President of Marketing and Communications, ISPA and BSC