follow us
David Perry

'50 Shades of Beige': How we got in bed with boring

November 14, 2012

I'm working on a little novella that is sure to be a best-seller in Mattressville. It's called "50 Shades of Beige" and it's the not-so-racy story of how the mattress industry got in bed with beige. This could be subtitled "Beige Bondage."
Yes, my literary pursuits are inspired by the "50 Shades of Grey" books, which, my second-hand research reveals, offer an exciting blend of spanking, wrist cuffs, and various forms of extracurricular activities. Surely, there must be some mattresses in there, somewhere.
Just as that series of erotica has become a literary hit, our industry has hit upon the idea that the best way to sell mattresses is to cover them in various shades of beige fabrics. And the problem with beige is that it is boring.
I'm sure that when that first mattress man introduced a beige mattress cover he was quite proud of himself. "This is a nice, safe color, one that will offend no one," he probably said. But after a while safe becomes blah. And we reached that point a very long time ago.
I remember when a major bedding producer rolled out an important new line and asked me what I thought. I looked at those beige beauties and asked what colors the line featured. Toast and eggshell, I was told. In other words: Two more shades of beige. What a daring move! Not!
When I protest the Sea of Beige that engulfs our mattress sales floors, I'm told that consumers actually like light colors, which they associate with clean, fresh linens, and that women don't want darker colors on their mattresses that could show through the sheets.
There is certainly some truth in those insights, but they don't give our industry a blank check to blank out when it comes to mattress colors. If you think about it, mattress fabrics are the packaging of our product. Packaging for most consumer products doesn't all look alike; many companies design flashy packages to catch the consumer's eye. There is more color on a box of toothpaste than on most mattresses these days.
I just don't understand why so many bedding producers decide not to compete on the colors of their mattresses.
True, there are occasional exceptions to the Beige Parade. Three that quickly come to mind are the Beautyrest Black line at Simmons, the Laura Ashley line at Comfort Solutions and the new Agility line by Therapedic, which features tangerine borders.
But overall, we are far too committed to light, safe, boring colors. And that's a shame.
From what I understand, the "50 Shades of Grey" books have some exciting contents. Our mattresses with 50 shades of beige may have some exciting contents inside, but they look boring outside. Alas, it is a missed opportunity.