Advertising With Alternative Facts

Alan Belniakadvertising, branding, contentLeave a Comment

You’ve likely seen the advertising for The Sleep Number Bed (made by Select Comfort). There are many forms of it: TV commercials, internet commercials, and even good ol’ fashioned billboards about the Sleep Number Bed.


Are You Lying Down For This (Advertising)?

In the advertising, they state that their major differentiator is that one can select a personal ‘sleep number’ or state of firmness, indicated by an integer between 0 and 100*. In the two-person bed models I’ve seen, the bed is split down the middle, permitting left and right sides to select a desired comfort level.


The bed is essentially 1-inch to 3-inch-thick, shaped, foam padding on top of an air mattress (see for yourself). The magic of the bed is selecting one’s sleep number from the remote, pictured here:

Advertising the Sleep Number remote -

(source: )


With numbers in the advertisements like “45” and “65”, one would think that there are myriad options for firmness. Indeed the Wikipedia article for Select Comfort states, “The “sleep number” is a setting that adjusts the firmness of the mattress, adjusted by air pressure, with higher numbers (up to 100) denoting higher pressure and more firmness.”


It Depends on What The Definition of ‘Is’ Is

However, nowhere have I seen a sleep number that is not a multiple of five. That’s right – every number I’ve seen ends in a zero or a five. Through a modest amount of Internet searching, I was hard-pressed to confirm this, until I recently landed on a competitor’s site, In their comparison chart, they indeed cite that very fact:

Night Air Beds - Sleep Number Comparison Table in advertising -

Night Air Beds - Sleep Number Comparison Table in advertising -


And their last sentence is killer, and the crux of my post here: [NightAirBeds offers] 5 times the adjustability of a Sleep Number®* bed, which only adjusts in increments of 5.”


That’s right. Sleep Number beds are adjustable by increments of 5. From five to one hundred, with twenty steps in between. So why not make the Sleep Number settings one through twenty? My hypothesis is that by suggesting a large range (0 to 100), the perception of specificity lures the potential buyer (or even the actual buyer) into thinking they have more control.


That’s my * above. Yes, 0 to 100. But in multiples of 5. So… 20. Not 100.


An Alternative to 100 is 20 (at least in advertising)

In my eyes, it’s a messaging flaw. I understand the point of the advertising here (thus me researching it and writing it). But this borders on almost hoodwinking someone. This isn’t like buying a pack of gum, calling it ‘Cherry’ and then seeing in fine print “cherry-flavored (artificial)”. That’s disappointing, but it’s also a one-dollar purchase. These beds can retail for as much as $8,000. That’s a significant cash outlay to find out that one might not be getting what’s expected. Smart shoppers will do their due diligence, and know this going in. However, I find the ads a little misleading – enough to turn me off from considering it as a future mattress/”sleep surface” replacement.


What about you? Do you find this range adjustment to be misleading? Or do you simply chalk it up to a tactic, and move on?