“Get me one style of bed and call it ‘heavenly.’” That was the brilliant instruction of Barry Sternlicht in 1998. Sternlicht was serving as CEO of Starwood Hotels, which at the time included stodgy names like Westin and Sheraton. Under Sternlicht’s leadership, Starwood created the chic W line and then reinvigorated the upscale Westins.
The “Heavenly Bed” provides, not just a good night’s sleep, but a textbook case of successful branding strategy and brand extension. You may have noticed recent advertisements by Delta Airlines promising “Heavenly” duvets and pillows in first and business-class cabins.
How did this happen? After receiving Sternlicht’s memo, the Westin management team, led by Sue Brush, rolled around on a lot of mattresses, finally settling on a Simmons design that tucks 900 coils under the surface. But it wasn’t just the mattress that counted. The team also threw goose-down pillows at each other and stroked duvets and 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets to get the right look and feel. Then they splashed the sheets and covers with all sorts of stains, including red nail polish.
How did guests respond to the chosen ensemble, a snow-white, 13-piece collection of pillows, blanket, duvet, etc.? First, the guests snoozed well. Second, the customers started giving Westin hotels higher marks for overall cleanliness. The all-white, stain-resistant bedding led guests to feel that the entire room was cleaner. Then the requests started coming in: “Can I take this bed home with me?” At first, Westin concierges were flummoxed. After all, it’s hard to stuff a mattress into the overhead compartment of a Boeing 737. Before long, though, Westin set up an online store and signed a deal with Nordstrom to carry the Heavenly Beds and bedding, which cost about $3,000. Westin has sold tens of thousands of these beds to customers all over the world.
But wait, there’s more. Westin then developed the “Heavenly Bath,” including a showerhead with adjustable jets and spray options, from light mist to massaging needles. Then there’s the velour bathrobes, the cushy slippers, and the fragrance selections. Finally, just so you don’t feel selfishly overindulged, you can buy the Westin Heavenly pet bed for your dog, or for your misbehaving spouse.
And, now, of course, Westin has been so successful branding and marketing the Heavenly theme that Delta buys ads promising a Heavenly snooze at 30,000 feet.
How amazing that it took so long for a hotel company to realize that a comfortable, clean bed matters a great deal to travelers! It’s a far cry from Motel 6’s promise, “We’ll leave the light on for you,” which pretty much warns that it could be a dangerous walk down the corridor to your room. The only danger in the Heavenly Bed is sleeping so soundly you could ignore your alarm ringing.