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Sealy's Allen heeds consumers

Sealy's new chief marketing officer says the bedding giant needs to better understand the voice of the consumer, pledges to learn from the successes of the new Stearns & Foster line, and says she will implement a research-based marketing program.

But first, says Jodi Allen, she wants to continue to listen and learn from Sealy colleagues, retailers and industry observers “about what is working and what we can improve upon…. It's important to me to develop trust with my colleagues so that I can legitimately analyze the strength of the Sealy brand and what it means to our targets, and then take action accordingly.”

Allen, who joined Sealy in September as chief marketing officer and senior vice president, has been busy. She has been through two markets (Las Vegas and High Point) and has been on the road meeting retailers.

Those who have met her say she brings an engaging, professional style to one of the most visible jobs in the mattress industry. She does her homework and listens well, they say.

Allen, 41, who joined Sealy after more than a decade of senior posts at appliance giant Whirlpool, says that experience will help her at Sealy.

“My passion and energy for consumer-brand building is evident through my successes at Whirlpool,” Allen told Furniture/Today in her first detailed interview with the media. “While I still have a few things to learn about the mattress industry, I bring fresh, new and different thinking to Sealy. Innovation, R&D and new product roll-out were all top priorities at Whirlpool. While our processes may change, these priorities remain the same at Sealy.”

Another takeaway from Whirlpool, Allen said, is an emphasis on marketing to women.

“I'm excited to bring a woman's perspective to the industry,” she said. “Having more than 14 years of experience in the appliance industry, where we market to women, I fully understand this demographic and the best ways to reach her. It's easy for me to tap the mindset of the target consumer because I represent our core target audience.”

In her new post at Sealy, Allen is one of the highest-ranking women in the mattress industry. And it is not lost on industry observers that the top marketing job at Sealy can lead to bigger jobs there, as it did for former CEO Dave McIlquham.

Larry Rogers, Sealy's current CEO, said Allen has “the right mix” of skills and experience for her new duties at Sealy. For her part, Allen describes Rogers and the executive team as “strong leaders with a clear vision.”

“It is evident to me why Sealy is the No. 1 mattress brand in North America,” Allen said. “We are investing our resources in all the right areas, specifically technology and product development. Our emphasis on R&D sets us apart from our competition and presents a tremendous opportunity to leverage our brands and new technologies.

“The Stearns & Foster launch is a perfect example of how we're doing this right. I plan to closely examine the process used for this launch and apply the lessons learned to other brand launches,” she said.

Allen said that at Whirlpool, she created and implemented successful product development and launch processes, and hopes to bring the same to Sealy. One way to do that, according to Allen, is to understand the consumer's voice to make sure that Sealy is differentiating its brands and products.

“I've come from a place where consumer research was most important,” she said. “This will not change at Sealy, as primary research will be crucial to creating a pipeline of consumer-relevant products and innovation.”

Allen also said she wants Sealy's marketing efforts to connect with retail sales associates and consumers “in unforgettable ways.” She said her past work with retailers has helped her understand the critical role that RSA's play. “I've worked with some of the same partners Sealy has in its portfolio and it is all about delivering best-in-class products that resonate with retailers and consumers,” she said.

Allen said she sees a lack of “consumer brand conviction” in the mattress industry and says that represents “a huge opportunity for us to strengthen our processes and identify innovative ways to support our retail partners.”

Allen moved to North Carolina for her new job at Sealy. She covered plenty of ground for Whirlpool, living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a year, and traveling extensively to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India and Malaysia when she was finance manager for Whirlpool's Asia region.

She says her new colleagues at Sealy have made her feel right at home. “I am confident this will be the perfect fit, for both Sealy and me.”

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