Catching some ZZZs with Casper

Someone very wise (probably my mother) once said that the most important things to invest in are shoes and your mattress because you spend most of your day either on your feet or in bed.

As a college student who has never had to purchase a mattress because it has always been provided for me, I don’t know much about the differences between brands or the process of choosing a good one. However, one brand that has stood out to me is Casper, whose simple, monochrome ads featuring quirky illustrations are plastered all over BART station walls, BART trains, and billboards in the Bay Area.

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Replace this illustration with dogs and here I am.

Generally when I think of mattress advertisements, the first things that come to mind are:

  1. Couples wearing all white looking content and probably experiencing marital bliss because their mattress really is that amazing
  2. Obnoxious window paintings telling me the local furniture store is GOING OUT OF BUSINESS, EVERYTHING MUST GO

It is one or the other, there is no in-between.

But Casper’s branding convinces me mattress shopping doesn’t have to involve either of those things. As the importance of sleep is increasingly emphasized and touted by prominent figures such as Arianna Huffington, Casper is in a great position to be the approachable, relatable mattress that serves those sleeping needs.

Speaking of sleep, if I go to sleep now I’ll be able to get my 8 hours in…


Cookies are the solution to all your problems

The step from a good to great hotel experience doesn’t require a monumental overhaul of hotel operations and design. In fact, as the DoubleTree by Hilton shows, sometimes all that’s needed is a sweet treat to delight guests and create a lasting impact.

I recently returned from a tour through western Europe, a whirlwind of beautiful sights, interesting food, and plenty of language struggles packed into ten days. While tour groups bring many conveniences, one consequence of traveling with so many people is that the process of checking in to hotels at the end of the day can seem to last an eternity. In Luxembourg City, we burst out of our charter bus, infiltrating the quiet lobby of the DoubleTree by Hilton (DT from here on out) and laying claim to the comfy couches as we waited for our tour guide to check us in, organize all the keys, and hand them out to each party.

It was a simple surprise that saved me from the listless stupor of waiting—a warm chocolate cookie in a branded paper sleeve, handed out by the front desk. Now, I have a major sweet tooth, so I’ll typically welcome any free sweets thrown my way. Thus, I didn’t think much of the experience at the time. However, it wasn’t until after I had continued on with the rest of my journey that I realized the power of this cookie.

So why was this free cookie so powerful?

First, it was handed out by not any hotel, but a chain hotel. Chains, while offering consistency and ease of access, often fail to deliver on personality and distinctiveness. A warm cookie conjures images of home and comfort, vivid associations that certainly help the DT stray away from being another nameless, boring chain hotel.

Timing is also a major factor—by giving out the cookie in between the last logistical hurdle of the day and the glorious collapse into bed, the hotel helps bridge the gap to bring guests closer to where they really want to be.

Lastly, an interesting thing happened after receiving the cookie. I began characterizing the DoubleTree in my mind as The Cookie Hotel. Not only did it become The Cookie Hotel, all future hotels I stayed at were suddenly positioned as Not The Cookie Hotel.

“Excuse me sir, this hotel’s great – bed, bathroom, all wonderful – but where is the cookie I deserve and need?”

With this simple gesture, the DoubleTree instantly differentiated itself from its competitors.

In order to extend and further cement this experience, DT dedicates an entire separate page on its website to its cookies. Guests can even send these delicious cookies to other people. On social media, DT regularly reposts guests’ pictures of the cookies they received, and takes advantage of related special days such as National #ChocolateChipCookieDay to highlight the star of their hotel. On the streets, HDT minivans rove around touting the cookie on their exteriors, willing you to follow them to their source. These follow-up interactions, combined with the distinctiveness of the cookie’s paper packaging, ensure that the guest doesn’t mistake the cookie as any generic, store-bought throwaway.

Does this mean all hotels should just start throwing cookies at all their guests?

While I personally think the world would be a much happier place with unlimited free cookies, such a uniform strategy would undermine their purpose—to delight and differentiate. Hotels should examine their unique strengths, drawing on factors like location and guest habits to determine how best to go the extra mile. Whether it’s a fresh arrangement of local flora or the ability to sync Spotify so you can continue belting shower tunes wherever you are, the guest should walk away feeling like she had a one-of-a-kind stay.

Olympics Ads

Every four years, the nation comes together. No, not for leap year. Certainly not for presidential elections (if anything, 2016 has been one of the most polarizing and contentious years yet). Every four years, we huddle around our TVs and computers, and if we’re lucky enough, in stadiums, for the biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympics. The fanfare theme “Bugler’s Dream” alone brings a smile to my face every time I hear it, as I’m jolted back to the days growing up watching my favorite swimmers and gymnasts bring home the gold. But before I can dissolve into ugly sobs at the first note of the anthem, I settle in for all the great video ads. Although we are still 15 days away from the opening ceremony in Rio, there have already been what seems like countless videos highlighting our summer celebrities. Here are some of my favorites so far.

Channel 4: We’re the Superhumans
Agency: 4Creative

This cheery trailer by UK Paralympic Broadcaster Channel 4 features disabled musicians and athletes singing, playing, racing, and training to Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Yes I Can.” What’s noteworthy to me is that this video has accompanying audio describing and signed/subtitled versions. The signed and subtitled one in particular goes above and beyond by featuring an interpreter who actually interacts with the video, changing costumes and props to match the different scenarios. Channel 4’s YouTube channel also contains shorter clips bringing plenty of positivity through its individual “Superhuman Stories.”

Another reason to smile? All profits from track downloads of singer Tony Dee’s rendition of “Yes I Can” will go to the British Paralympic Association.


Under Armour: Rule Yourself
Agency: Droga5

With big names like Michael Phelps, Steph Curry, and Lindsey Vonn now under its wing, Under Armour is starting to prove its own against Nike. This beautifully dark and dramatic spot, set to the haunting “The Last Goodbye” by The Kills, speaks to the lonely nature of competitive swimming. Phelps’ steady strokes down the never-ending lane remind me of my own struggles every semester – fitting, considering the video came out at the beginning of March aka prime midterm season. The video as a whole also reminds me of this great NY Times article detailing Phelps’ journey from dark times and rehab to a more mature and stable place.

Gillette: Perfect Isn’t Pretty
Agency: Grey New York

Before the roaring crowds and flashing lights of the winners’ podium, before the sparkling glint of the gold medal, there is only pain and sacrifice, and it isn’t pretty.

P&G: Thank You, Mom
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy

P&G brings back its touching series “Thank You, Mom,” reminding me that I do indeed have a heart and am not completely soulless.