1941-1965: Promoting better sleep

Part II of the second installment on the International Sleep Products Association’s first 100 years.

Industry renews public-relations efforts with bold marketing programs

Better Sleep Month archival magazine cover

The National Association of Bedding Manufacturers designated September 1961 as the first official Better Sleep Month.


During this era, the industry embraced public relations in a big way, sponsoring an evolving series of campaigns. The first major event held after World War II was the National Sleep Show in March 1948.

J. Paul Fanning, secretary and general manager of the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers, described the event this way: “National Sleep Show will be a period during which both manufacturers and dealers will be concentrating such a preponderance of advertising and publicity that there will be a definite recognition by the public of the fact that this event is taking place.” Its primary purpose? “To stimulate bedding sales for ourselves and our dealers.” Its format? “An actual showing of bedding products in the retail furniture and department stores of the country. They are the stages on which the actors, the bedding, will strut their stuff.”

In 1954, the Sleep Show was rebranded as Better Bedding Time.

National Sleep Show archival logo

NABM’s first PR campaign remained strong through the mid-20th century.

“For the past six years, it was known as the Sleep Show, a dramatic title but one that caused considerable confusion over just what was supposed to take place while the event was in progress. Now with the new title, it becomes immediately apparent that the idea is to display and sell quality bedding,” according to a February 1954 article in Bedding magazine.

NABM prepared a sales promotion kit for members to give to retailers, and its retailer-focused magazine, Bedding Merchandiser, offered plenty of ideas for ways to display and promote bedding during the month.

Invest in Rest archival logo

The National Sleep Show in March 1948 was the first major promotion following World War II.

By 1961, the industry’s annual promotion had morphed again, becoming Better Sleep Month, then held in September. Fanning called that year’s event “the most ambitious and comprehensive marketing program our industry had ever undertaken.” It would draw together other trade groups to help promote and fund the effort and involve marketing campaigns at the supplier, manufacturer and retailer level. (NABM’s efforts in 1962 to get consumers to buy specifically the new supersize bedding of the time deserves its own look.)

The new Better Sleep Month set out to rectify some shortcomings with previous campaigns, Fanning said. “The most significant feature of this program is that it is designed specifically to sell bedding products and is not some grandiose scheme to give lip-service to merchandising. We want every manufacturer, supplier and retailer who has something to sell to use this event to his advantage.”

Read all seven parts of this month’s special ISPA 1941-1965 centennial section:
Part I – A time of war, a time for peace
Part II – Promoting better sleep
Part III – Mattress makers introduce ‘king’ and ‘queen’ sizes
Part IV – Mattress industry introduces the sofa bed
Part V – NABM introduces magazine exclusively for bedding retailers
Part VI – Mattress components makers ‘integral’ to industry
Part VII – ‘Do Not Remove This Tag Under Penalty of Law’

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