I can still remember, all these years later, staring at the blank sheet of paper in my Royal typewriter in my journalism class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was time to write, but I wasn’t sure what I should write.
The challenge of the blank sheet of paper came back to me at our Bedding Conference this summer, when keynote speaker Doug Lipp talked about how a Disney executive faced that same challenge. And the lessons of that story offer instruction on how we can address the changing mattress landscape.
Lipp, a former executive at Disney U, told how Marty Sklar approached the challenge given to him by Walt Disney himself: to write a creative article each day. As Sklar looked at that blank piece of paper, he found it difficult to get started.
“I would get so tense,” Lipp recalled Sklar saying. “I was focused on my creativity. I needed to look at that paper in a different way.”
And that led Lipp to offer a breakthrough insight:
“It can be the most frightening thing in the world because you have to make the first mark on that paper. That scares us. Or, that can be the greatest opportunity in the world because you get to make the first mark.”
That story sums up how we approached our first-ever virtual Bedding Conference, and it can help our industry as it faces the challenge of filling in blank sheets in marketing playbooks being rewritten by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Truth be told, it was invigorating for our team to pioneer a virtual format for the Bedding Conference. The previous 14 Bedding Conferences, all in-person events, of course, all followed a similar design. But that 15th Bedding Conference gave us a chance to try several new formats, unencumbered by past programs. We had the rare opportunity to make the first mark on a blank sheet.
If you think about it, our industry too often follows the same playbook in its marketing and merchandising programs. We tend to do a lot of the same things over and over again. Yes, we make changes here and there, but we don’t usually reassess our whole approach to what we are doing.
That is the opportunity in the wave of virtual events that is sweeping our industry. There is no basic model to follow; we are putting footprints on untouched beaches, to choose another image.
In a powerful collaboration, Furniture Today publisher Kara Dunlay, Jessica Byerly, our director of events and social media, and I made the first marks on the blank slate that was our virtual Bedding Conference.
We got great reviews for the conference, with the overwhelming sentiment being that we had exceeded expectations. The industry loved the platform we used to present the conference, loved our speakers and loved the interaction they enjoyed with their industry colleagues.
As you look to reimagine your businesses in these days of the pandemic, don’t be afraid to try something completely new as you make your mark on a blank piece of paper. It might just be a big hit.