20 April 2024, 03:59
By Furniture News Dec 07, 2015

20 years of The Sleep Council

The bed market certainly appreciates the power of selling a lifestyle these days – health and wellbeing a greater driver than a mattress’ looks could ever be. For 20 years, The Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the National Bed Federation, has played an increasingly important part in conveying this message to the public, providing advice on choosing the right bed and achieving a better quality of sleep through various channels, with the aim of bolstering sales in turn. Furniture News speaks to two of the council’s principals, Lisa Artis and Jessica Alexander, to find out more about the UK’s unsung hero of selling sleep …

Thanks to new approaches and technological developments, The Sleep Council’s reach has grown massively since its inception – and particularly over the last few years. Website hits have gone from an average of 9000 per month in 2004 to 49,000 per month in 2014. In the last four years, The Sleep Council’s Twitter following has increased from around 500 to over 11,000. 

In 2010, the council launched Sleep Biz, a dedicated retailer-facing website and email campaign, and this has steadily increased to target a mailing list just short of 2000.

As well as being an essential part of a business model that aims to assist members of the NBF – and their customers – sell more beds, The Sleep Council is a labour of love for its staff, who are always keen to discover and promote proven developments in sleep technology and theory. Furniture News talks to two of the council’s mainstays, Jessica Alexander and Lisa Artis, about the lessons they’ve learned from being a part of this unique school …

Sum up The Sleep Council in 10 words

Jessica: A triumph of passion and optimism over lethargy and incomprehension!

Lisa: Passionate and determined about encouraging the nation to sleep better.

What is the biggest challenge facing The Sleep Council today?

Jessica: Defining clear objectives and messages for the organisation in a digital world of information overload.

Lisa: Trying to get sleep on the public health agenda. It’s difficult because the sleep message is a complicated one. Diet and exercise play an important part in the Government’s Change for Life programme, and yet sleep doesn’t factor – but you can’t do the other two well if you don’t sleep well!

What are you most proud of The Sleep Council achieving in the last 12 months?

Jessica: Distributing more than 6000 of our information leaflets – and climbing – to hundreds of GP surgeries up and down the country.

Lisa: Our work with The Children’s Sleep Charity, which saw the launch of our Teen Sleep campaign. The new Good-Night Guide for Children that was produced in partnership saw over 4000 copies fly out the door within four weeks!

What’s the most significant lesson you’ve learned from your work with The Sleep Council?

Jessica: Never give up – there’s always a new way of telling the same story, and a new way of inspiring the NBF to carry on championing quality sleep (and beds, of course!).

“I think the time is right to steer The Sleep Council in a new direction, and we are exploring lots of opportunities”

Lisa: That sleeping well is not as easy as you’d think.

Are there any plans to expand The Sleep Council’s activity to ensure greater consumer reach?

Jessica: Budgets are always tight, so it’s a question of finding the most cost-effective way to reach the most people.

Lisa: I think the time is right to steer The Sleep Council in a new direction, and we are exploring lots of opportunities. We’re determined to get everyone – adults, teens and kids – to understand how important sleep is to their health and wellbeing. 

Which initiative have you most enjoyed developing?

Jessica: The most exciting was our first children’s survey, back in the summer of 2007 – the first time we talked about the effect of technology on teenage sleep habits – dubbed junk sleep. The media went mad, and as I was decorating my ex mother-in-law’s flat in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex over the August Bank Holiday, I was literally up and down a ladder all day trying to work out how to be in the BBC, ITV and Sky News TV studios all at the same time on the Tuesday morning!

“It was nearly called the British Bed Council, and nearly launched with a TV ad with the slogan ‘You Never Get Out Of The Wrong Side Of A New Bed’!”

Lisa: I’m excited about our hunt for the killer sleep slogan and ad campaign that has just begun. As part of our drive to tackle sleep and public health we’ve asked media students, from universities and colleges up and down the country, to come up with a sleep slogan and message which may be used for a future campaign. We’ve four judges, including someone from Public Health England. I’m excited to see the results!

How has The Sleep Council incorporated new channels and technology into its approach?

Jessica: When we started, we mailed printed press releases and pictures to journalists. Now, most of our work is delivered online, and our engagement is increasingly through social media and the website.

Lisa: We’re more active, on more channels, than we’ve ever been. Social media has played a huge part in being another voice for the industry, and over the past 10 years the internet has become an important tool in how people research and source information, so we’ve had to continually make improvements and updates to our site.

Tell us something about The Sleep Council that we don’t already know

Jessica: It was nearly called the British Bed Council, and nearly launched with a TV ad with the slogan ‘You Never Get Out Of The Wrong Side Of A New Bed’! I wonder if it’s worth reviving …?

Lisa: That we all work from the confines of our beds …

Only kidding – that would go against our advice!

Other than buying a good bed, what’s your best tip for getting a good night’s sleep?

Jessica: For me it has to be my getting-ready-for-bed routine, followed by a little read to help me switch off. I’m sure this tells my brain it’s time to relax. If that fails, I keep pen and paper by the bed and make a list!

Lisa: Factor in a proper wind-down before bed – in particular, switch off those gadgets! You’re not missing out on anything that can’t wait until morning.

Tell us your best anecdote from your years of service with The Sleep Council

Jessica: I once spent a chilly March morning sitting on a small platform in a dressing gown on a huge advertising hoarding on the A4 near Earls Court, to launch National Bed Month (with a little help from Slumberland!).

Lisa: I’ve taken some brilliant telephone calls from consumers who’ve called The Sleep Council for advice – everything from a woman wanting to know how to stop her cat clawing her bed base (maybe keep the cat out of the bedroom?) to a mum who’d bought a bed for her teenage son – who four weeks later had already outgrown it, so could she send it back?

Then there was a wife asking if her hubby was truthful when talking in his sleep, and a gentleman who had tried everything to get a good night’s sleep – even sleeping in ladies’ silk nighties – but that still hadn’t worked!

Read an expanded version of this article in the December issue of Furniture News magazine.

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