Hybrid – What’s In A Name?

If you’ve recently been mattress shopping, you’ve undoubtedly come across the term “Hybrid”, probably being pummeled with it by salespeople to the point you feel like Rocky Balboa after going 15 rounds with Ivan Drago. But what does it really mean if a mattress is a Hybrid? As it turns out, it all depends upon who you’re talking to.

A Brief History Lesson

I already knew some of the story of how the Hybrid terminology came to be, but I wanted the complete details, so I went to the source: Mark Quinn.

Mark Quinn (Q’s Views, CEO and President of Sibose LLC, Co-Founder of Spink and Co., one-half of the Dos Marcos mattress industry podcastEnglander President and CEO Mark Kinsley is the other half) was a Segment Vice-President of Marketing at Leggett and Platt in the early 2010s. At that time, all-foam mattresses were really making an inroad into the industry, and much of their marketing was geared toward disparaging anything that used innersprings, branding springs as uncomfortable and archaic.

Mark and his team were tasked with combating these negative innerspring descriptors. Besides those negative marketing statements being untrue (When has marketing ever let the truth get in the way of a good story? I’m still waiting on the wonderful head of hair this product promised.), they also ran contrary to one of the main products produced by Mark’s employer: innersprings.

Mark tried to come up with different ways to combat the perception being created by all-foam mattress brands that all innerspring mattresses weren’t comfortable. He knew that fabric-encased spring units could provide strong support and alignment characteristic while still being quite point elastic, especially when combined with higher-quality foams, such as latex, high density visco-elastic foam, high-density polyurethane foam and/or buckling column gel. This of course was quite different than the old school Bonnell innerspring units topped with low density polyurethane foam that the all-foam mattresses companies were using as “equivalent” comparators.

A Hole In One

After much brain-racking, Mark found that there wasn’t adequate existing vocabulary to describe this combination of better fabric-encased springs and higher-quality padding materials. Then, while watching a golf tournament on television, he came across multiple products describing themselves as hybrids, and a light bulb went off. Hybrid was the term that perfectly described this higher-end combination of materials he was attempting to promote.

Hybrid Is Put To The Test

To test the efficacy of his new term, Quinn turned to his friend and agency partner Mark Kinsley (now a partner with Quinn on the aforementioned Dos Marcos podcast), and together they brought this Hybrid idea to the industry. They took to Sleep Geek and had 15 prominent Geeks use the hybrid terminology in their showrooms for one week. The results? More mattresses were sold, and the average ticket went up. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

The next step was to hook up with Second City Communications for a day (the corporate services division of Chicago’s Second City comedy theatre) and develop a music video mixing Springz and Phoam, called, “Get Hybrid”. Within a year, a major mattress brand came out with a specific Hybrid mattress line. Leggett and Platt even created a Hybrid web site. A category was born.

Fast Forward To Present Day

While there was initial resistance from mattress brands to adopt the Hybrid term and marketing, consumer demand dictated that it be used, as did increasing retail sales. Quinn and his team had accomplished their task. People were being made aware that comfort wasn’t the sole domain of all-foam mattresses, and Leggett and Platt was selling more innersprings.

It was soon found that the Hybrid name had cache with mattress shoppers. So much cache, in fact, that like too many things in the mattress industry, the term became diluted and applied by salespeople and mattress companies to basically anything that used fabric-encased spring units and any sort of padding material.

What Does This All Mean For You, The Consumer?

So, if you enter a mattress showroom today and ask to see a Hybrid, what will you be shown? Typically, just about everything in the showroom, much of which will bear little resemblance to the initial Hybrid term as defined by Quinn and his team. If you ask 10 salespeople these days to define Hybrid, you’ll probably receive seven different answers, two blank stares, and a partridge in a pear tree.

This is why I don’t recommend shopping for a mattress using the Hybrid terminology as your only guide. If you visit with me and say that you were looking at a Hybrid mattress somewhere else and want to see something similar, I won’t have a clue what you’re attempting to replicate, because of the watered-down, varied and often self-serving applications of that term. While I’ll certainly be happy to show you a Hybrid, it will be much more important for both of us to focus upon the componentry that best suits your particular needs, regardless of the moniker.

So, now you know what’s in a name of the term Hybrid. Probably a lot more than you thought!