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Bedding veteran Jamison taking new direction

Frank Gorrell IIIFrank Gorrell III, center, is flanked by Jamison executives Ken Hinman, left, and Rick MacLean.
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - A snazzy penguin named Captain Cool sauntered onto the bedding scene last year, introducing a cool-sleeping line of gel memory foam beds.
     This fall a handful of beautiful butterflies will flutter across the bedding landscape, alighting on a new line of latex beds.
     The bedding producer dispatching those new lines - and creating the distinctive marketing programs to accompany them - is one of the oldest bedding companies in the country, now moving in some fresh new directions.
     Jamison Bedding, based in this pleasant Nashville suburb, is making some cool moves in the highly competitive bedding marketplace, as the Captain Cool mascot indicates. And the butterflies suggest something else about Jamison: This 129- year-old bedding producer is in the midst of its own transformation, a mattress company metamorphosis led by a management team of bedding veterans and some notable newcomers who came from several consumer marketing powerhouses.
     As both of those new bedding lines indicate, Jamison remains true to its specialty sleep orientation, a hallmark of the company for the past two decades. But Jamison has elevated its game, rebranding the company and displaying its new identity with strong new products and marketing programs.
     "Bedding since 1883" was the company's historically rooted tagline for many years. It recently made way for a new tagline, one that reflects Jamison's strategy to stand apart from its competitors: "We make sleep different."
     Frank Gorrell III, president, is the great-great-grandson of the company's founder, Robert Jamison. He has been president for more than a quarter century, leading a family-owned operation that is increasingly rare these days in the bedding business, now dominated by private equity owners.
     Unlike those companies, many of which carry significant levels of debt, Jamison is debt free. It's able to focus on providing superior quality bedding at competitive values, the company says. "said.
     Jamison has something else that Gorrell says those bigger producers can't match: Speed to market. "We are quick to market and we are innovative," he said. "We can take advantage of certain trends and beat some of the ‘S' brands to market."
     The company also benefits from years of superior service to its loyal customer base, a large percentage of which are Jamison-only retailers, Gorrell said.
     Those strong points all emerged from a detailed customer study that Jamison undertook a while back to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Company officials wanted a candid look at their business, from which they ultimately developed new corporate and brand strategies for the future.
     "The research revealed that dealers love our quality, the values we offer and the relationships we foster," said Rick Mac- Lean, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. "They also revealed the need for us to do better marketing and have a stronger market presence."
     MacLean came to Jamison with a broad portfolio of consumer brand experience. When Jamison began looking for a new marketer, MacLean recommended a former colleague, Ken Hinman, who was then working for Lebanon, Tenn.-based luxury travel goods producer Hartmann.
     Gorrell thought that would be a good fit. "We saw Hartmann as the Jamison in its category," he said. "They have similar relationships with their customers."
     Under Hinman's direction, Jamison is now showing a fresh face in the market, rolling out new lines backed with comprehensive marketing programs - and seasoned with a dash of fun, too.
     Take Captain Cool, for example. The mascot has helped Jamison stand out in the highly competitive gel bedding arena. Jamison filled a corner of its new High Point showroom with large and small versions of the mascot and with banners that tout Captain Cool sales events, including one in which Captain Cool improbably rides a surfboard. Hinman calls the POP materials "a party in a box."
     "Ken has taken our marketing to another level," MacLean said. Improved marketing programs are one of the company's strategic initiatives.
     Other key directions for Jamison, Hinman says, include continuous product innovation to engage shoppers, expansion in distribution, and a more finely tuned contract sales organization.
     "We have updated our image and introduced a new Jamison," Hinman said. "We are taking from what we do best, adding new constructions, and remaining consistent with our owner's vision."
     "We" is a key word at Jamison these days. It's featured in the new tagline, "We make sleep different," and it characterizes the way the company operates, Hinman said.
     "We are a very ‘we' company," he said. "There is an esprit de corps here and a loyalty to the brand that is amazing. We all really do love this company."
     Jamison is also growing with its affiliation with Spring Air. The company is a licensee for Spring Air in the Southeast.

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