In 2017 Innocor was purchased by a large private equity buyer that wanted to reset the company’s strategy. As a large manufacturer and supplier of memory foam products with a limited retail presence, Innocor needed to define its role in a mattress market that was being disrupted by direct-to-consumer (D2C) players.
Over the course of the following year, Innocor engaged us in a partnership across several projects including innovation strategy, product category creation, sales and partnership development, new product development, in-store sales solutions and brand creation, positioning, identity and web presence.
Innocor’s retail division, Innocor Comfort, focused primarily on mattresses-in-boxes (MiBs) and mattress toppers. Through a rigorous research and discovery program, it became clear that we needed to go beyond identifying discrete innovation opportunities in these two areas. In order to realize its growth goals, Innocor needed a holistic vision that could drive toward short-term wins within the context of a long-term strategic plan.
After synthesizing our research about consumers’ sleep habits and preferences with our assessments of Innocor’s key strengths and market challenges, we identified the fundamental questions at the heart of the strategic pivot: What kind of business does Innocor want to be in the years ahead? What’s the destination?
Several key insights from our research helped shape the overarching goals of Innocor’s strategy reset and informed critical decisions about its brand, market positioning and product priorities.
Initially, Innocor’s lack of a dominant flagship brand seemed like a vulnerability in an increasingly competitive market—but it also left the door open for Innocor to more easily access other brands through strategic partnerships.
Innocor’s long-standing relationship with its top retailer made proactive experimentation and innovation more challenging, but made the cultivation of stronger unassisted sale strategies more appealing.
Innocor’s offerings portfolio made it a small player in the MiB market and a large, influential player in the mattress topper segment, leading to the strategic decision to focus on winning in the mattress topper space.
With the rise of D2C mattress brands, both Innocor’s traditional sales channels and consumers’ expectations changed fundamentally. Rather than competing with D2C entrants on their terms, our insights guided Innocor toward winning D2C value through value-added service and partnerships while cultivating new channels over time.
Together, these strategic insights and consequent business and brand decisions allowed Innocor to define its long-term strategic vision: To become the most progressive, multi-tiered private label partner in the sleep business.
Innocor already had a strong presence in the mattress topper category, but our exploration of the sleep space uncovered tremendous consumer confusion around mattress toppers—What are they? What do they do for me? How do I use them? Do they replace my existing mattress?
This confusion, combined with a fragmented marketplace full of ambiguous claims, revealed an opportunity for Innocor to more clearly define the category, setting them apart from competitors, establishing their category leadership and driving new demand. This redefinition led to a refined category architecture and a portfolio of differentiated mattress topper concepts that targeted specific consumer needs and priorities.
Within months, Innocor had launched two of our proposed concepts—the You & Me personalized mattress topper and a dedicated back support topper—through their retail partnerships with Serta and Kohl’s. We also created a new retail shelf space architecture to help Innocor’s retail partners educate consumers about the new category ecosystem and sell these products most effectively.
In addition to these launched products, we created, named and tested numerous additional product concepts to provide a robust innovation pipeline for the company moving forward. Beyond physical products, we also designed a digital product to provide customization to customers in a way that navigates the SKU constraints of mass channels.
With D2C players emerging as the winners in the sleep space, we needed to reimagine how Innocor was going to play. Instead of competing with these brands head-on, we advised Innocor to achieve long-term growth by “winning with the winners” in the burgeoning D2C mattress space. To do that, we needed to understand the underlying challenges these businesses were facing and provide a compelling case for partnering with Innocor to overcome them.
Innocor’s industry experience and expertise created an opportunity to add value to D2C brands through strategic partnerships. Through such relationships, Innocor could provide D2C startups with strategic leadership, consumer insights, technologies and product development to help them grow or expand into new markets. The key insight was that Innocor could expand beyond just making products, becoming a growth and innovation solution provider to its own strategic partners.
Based on this value proposition, we designed and developed print, digital and video assets to help Innocor improve their outreach and messaging with big-name D2C sleep startups.
Innocor invented MiBs and led the category in multiple key channels. In order to defend and grow its position in this segment of its business, however, it needed to strengthen its brick-and-mortar retail experience and MiB product offerings. The primary barriers to MiB purchases included product ambiguity, the lack of “trial-in-the-aisle” opportunities and the impression of MiBs being low quality.
To overcome these barriers, we focused on elevating Innocor’s MiB presentation and in-store experience to improve consumer understanding and create more impactful first impressions. We designed new physical displays and in-store materials to increase visibility and consumer awareness about the MiB category, driving new sales. Additionally, we created new MiB product packaging featuring informative touch-and-learn displays that allow consumers to see and feel the inside of an Innocor MiB before making a purchase, further strengthening understanding and awareness of product’s benefits and quality.
Our strategy, category creation and retail programs for Innocor culminated in the creation of two new, private label brands. We defined the brand positioning, guidelines and visual identities for each brand, along with unique consumer targets and value propositions tailored to specific retailers.
The strength of our work attracted Amazon to partner with one of these brands, Revel, in early 2018, bringing the online retail giant into the D2C mattress and bedding space. To support the launch of this partnership, we helped bring Revel to life with a complete brand identity including brand assets and guidelines, product and packaging design and original photography. Revel’s complete line of mattresses, mattress toppers and pillows continues to sell successfully on Amazon.