Underground Marketing: The Brilliance Behind Casper’s Subway Ads

Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)

In this post, guest writer Briana Pagano explores how mattress industry disruptor Casper’s recent ad campaign serves as a wake-up call for marketers, copywriters, and brandfolk everywhere. 

For modern businesses, standing out from the crowd can feel like an impossible feat. Consumers are constantly inundated with information, leaving marketers to wonder: How can I tell a story that cuts through the noise? 

Some brands have an easier time attracting attention than others (because let’s face it—a Google Home is more interesting than home insurance). But how do you market a product that, on its own, is a bit of a snooze?  

Just ask Casper, the online mattress company that has made a name for itself through a series of creative subway ads over the past five years. 

Earlier this year, Casper installed 21 logic puzzles in subway trains throughout New York City, delighting commuters and reminding customers why they fell in love with the brand to begin with. Here are a few reasons why these ads succeeded—and three tips you can follow to ensure your next campaign does the same:

Don’t be afraid to have fun. 

Who said business couldn’t be casual? Ditch the suit—in a sea of stuffy copy, it pays to stand out. To see this tip in action, take a look at the ad below.

What emotions did you experience just now? Determination? Satisfaction? Delight? Whether or not your answer is one of the above, you likely felt something—because your brain was actively engaging with the puzzle before you.

Ads like this prove that an effective marketing campaign can be both playful and purposeful. Emotion inspires action, so be bold. Stop imitating and start innovating—if you’re doing the same thing as your competitors, chances are you’re doing something wrong.

Embrace white space. 

In an age of information overload, less is often more. Casper didn’t use its subway ads as an opportunity to list product features or explicitly sell to consumers. Rather, it embraced white space and let ingenuity speak for itself. 

Instead of exhausting the benefits of “pressure-relieving memory foam,” Casper delivered ads that were truly memorable—along with a link to its website, where consumers could dig into the details if they so desired.

Know your audience…

…and offer them something of value (no, a discount code doesn’t count). 

The average subway rider avoids eye contact at all costs—so of course they’d rather solve a puzzle than challenge a stranger to a staring contest. The marketing minds behind Casper knew they had a limited amount of time and space with which to tell a story. They knew there was competition. But they also knew their audience, from A to ZZZ, and that made all the difference. 

Commuters can’t wait to get where they’re going—but for a moment, Casper made them pause and enjoy where they were. “People are captive in that environment, and we’ve found that capturing their imagination is often the best way to also get their attention,” Casper’s CMO told AdWeek. “Bringing joy and wit to an otherwise mundane and stressful daily commute has paid dividends for us.”

People remember experiences, and positive memories inspire sales. As Jonah Berger reminds marketers in his bestselling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, “Top of mind, tip of tongue.” Consumers may not be in the market for your product the first time they see your ad. But when the day comes that they are, your brand should be top of mind.

Are your stories putting people to sleep? At MarketSmiths, we’re dedicated to killing the bogeyman that is boring copy—so stop dreaming about better business results and get in touch today.

Paul Rosevear

What do you get when you combine the soul of a musician with the mind of a writer? Copy that sings. And for the last decade, that’s precisely what Paul has delivered for global brands, bootstrap startups, and everything in between. When he’s not hard at work crafting top-notch communications, you can find Paul hanging with his wife and two young daughters, singing and playing guitar for The Vice Rags, or roaming the streets in search of the nearest slice of pizza.

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