Five Ways Sleep Number Crushes Booth Engagement at CES

When you’re a sleep wellness brand vying for attention at a global technology trade show, sometimes you’ve got to make your own dreams come true. Such is the case for Sleep Number, an exhibitor at CES for the last eight years. The brand’s presence at the tentpole event has evolved from a tiny footprint located next to an e-cigarette booth in a small corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center, to a large, interactive space prominently positioned on the show floor. As its strategy has progressed, Sleep Number says the right application of event technology, scientific data and human elements have advanced its reputation at the event from “why are you here” to “will you help lead the conversation.”

“CES is a platform that we believe in, and really created and launched the whole sleep tech category from where we were positioned in our first year or two,” says Angela Gearhart, vp-brand experience at Sleep Number. “Now we’re a pretty key part of the [show’s] health and wellness experience.”

For this year’s trip to Vegas, Sleep Number upped the ante once more, even amid a sharp dip in show attendance brought on by the Omicron variant. The brand typically uses CES as a platform for announcing new products and innovations, and for 2022 it delivered again with the debut of its all-new 360 smart bed, a product wired with technology designed to proactively monitor and improve an individual’s sleep health over time.

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To introduce the 360 smart bed to attendees, Sleep Number built a sizeable booth featuring a 22-foot-tall, cylindrical LED screen broadcasting educational brand content. The installation was surrounded by a collection of the 360 smart beds, each with its own semi-circular, COVID-friendly barrier. Visitors could strap on a Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset and embark on a virtual sleep science and technology journey that illustrated the product’s smart features. They could then physically lie down on the bed to feel some of the features come to life (think: a foot-warming option designed to help consumers fall asleep faster), making it a full-on sensory experience. In addition to debuting the smart bed, Sleep Number unveiled smart bedroom furniture, manned a busy digital booth for the virtual component of CES and hosted a virtual panel on the future of connected sleep health. The results: 1.2 billion media impressions.

It’s safe to say Sleep Number didn’t claim a space in the big leagues this swiftly without a sound activation strategy and savvy press tactics, so we asked Gearhart to pull back the covers on the brand’s secrets to CES success. Agencies: CenterPoint Marketing (event production, creative); Extended Reality Group (virtual content production).

Sleep Number CES 2022_booth side 4

Semi-circular, clear barriers surrounding each 360 smart bed made the booth more COVID-friendly.


Integrate technology that paints the broader picture.

For Sleep Number, leveraging the HoloLens at this year’s show wasn’t about using tech for the sake of it. The technology not only helped deliver a richer product experience, but offered a more holistic understanding of the brand’s positioning as a sleep tech category leader.

“Attendees could see, feel and hear the benefits of the new 360 smart bed, so we leveraged HoloLens in a way that I don’t think HoloLens has been leveraged before, really integrating a product experience,” says Gearhart. “We even overheard some Microsoft visitors say that this was the best activation they’ve ever seen with the technology. So it was a way that the attendee could understand not only the product, but Sleep Number’s positioning as a leader in sleep science, innovation and research.”


Make it sensory.

The HoloLens was critical to educating CES attendees, but blending the digital aspect with a sensorial component—booth visitors could physically experience the smart bed’s features—really drove the product messaging home. As consumers’ desire for “phygital” (a seamless combination of physical and digital) experiences continues to grow, Sleep Number proved it knows how to hit the sweet spot between the two realms.

“The idea is that it’s totally sensory and immersive,” says Gearhart. “You are seeing, feeling, hearing all the amazing key innovations of the bed. So the attendee would start at the end of the bed and learn about Sleep Number innovations, learn how as you fall asleep, we use foot-warming to help warm the body. And then the attendee was prompted to feel the end of the bed. So in the first chapter [of the activation], you learned all about the innovations, and in the second chapter, you laid down on the bed and you felt it. You felt the bed conforming to you, and you learned about temperature management, snore functionality, really anything that you’d add in to really smooth out that conversation.”


Elevate your brand ambassador game.

Brand ambassadors are a critical component of trade show activations, and can often make or break an attendee’s booth experience. So Sleep Number swapped traditional, outsourced brand ambassadors for its own retail store managers—people who engage with customers daily and understand the ins and outs of the brand’s product lineup.

“We used the expertise of our store managers, and it’s a big honor to be selected to come and represent the brand. So our team members that were there were passionate. They’re excited about the brand. They work with consumers on a daily basis, so they know how to connect, and they were a great representation of the Sleep Number brand values and purpose. Using our actual team that is on the ground and in the stores every day really brought another layer of authenticity to the experience.”


Employ creative media engagement tactics.

The media is a major amplification driver for Sleep Number at CES, so it’s paramount that the brand find a way to engage press members, even amid ever-changing event formats brought on by the pandemic. When it became clear that the media would not be attending CES in the flesh this year, the brand immediately pivoted to ensure there was enough staff managing its virtual booth to connect with the press online. In fact, a virtual panel with Sleep Number’s ceo and medical experts was specifically designed to entice the media. And for an upcoming sleep conference that doesn’t offer a virtual component, Gearhart says that if the show is canceled, Sleep Number will directly reach out to key media members.


Adapt to the times.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but brands like Sleep Number that read the room and alter their booth strategy accordingly are typically the ones that make a bigger impact. Case in point: Sleep Number designed a COVID-friendly booth to make attendees feel safe, and accommodate for varying levels of comfortability.

“The floor plan was very intentional, both for the comfort of the experience, as well as taking into consideration COVID and separation,” says Gearhart. “We wanted to make sure there was enough space in between the experiences, in between the conversations, as well as that comfort level while you experienced the product. So it was still inviting from the positioning of the product, but it also gave the attendees a sense of safety and comfort because they weren’t overwhelmed in a crowd.”

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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