Sales stay plump for Chanhassen-based MyPillow

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2013 - 6:56 PM

In just two years, MyPillow in Minnesota has dramatically increased sales and hiring. Give credit to the infomercial.

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Mike Lindell’s firm, MyPillow, has grown from a $3 million company with 60 employees to a $102 million company with more than 500 employees in Minnesota.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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What a difference an infomercial makes.

In 2010, sales of Chanhassen-based MyPillow were about $3 million and the company employed about 60 people. After CEO Mike Lindell started airing a 30-minute infomercial in 2011 with his ­ebullient self as its pitchman, sales hit the stratosphere.

In 2012, they reached $102 million and the number of employees at the company’s Minnesota plants rose to more than 500.

“We were running the infomercial almost 200 times every day,” said Lindell. By January 2012, it was the No. 1 infomercial, according to Jordan Whitney Greensheet, which ranks infomercials.

Lindell credits a genuine love of his creation as part of its success. He invented it out of necessity after many sleepless nights from neck injuries and failed businesses.

He believes that his pillow not only helps people sleep better, but also that it aids in reducing ­snoring, migraines, insomnia, neck pain, allergies, sleep apnea and fibromyalgia.

Lindell doesn’t attempt to look or sound slick and polished while making such claims. “I want to come across as an average guy, talking to his neighbor,” he said about his infomercials.

When Lindell finished his first one, some marketers were aghast at its lack of finesse. They asked Lindell if he had written it himself.

The former bar owner and carpet cleaner admitted that he had. “They tried to get me to use a teleprompter, but I couldn’t do it. Now it’s mostly ad-libbed.”

Ironically, Lindell may have become more likable because he’s as flawed as a Kardashian. He’s been sued a couple of times by investors and a software company, declared bankruptcy, been through drug and alcohol rehab, and failed very publicly in his recent second marriage, which was in June.

“It’s my past, and I’m not ashamed of it,” he said. “I haven’t had a perfect life.”

Lindell’s likability is a key to his success, said Vladas Griskevicius, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

“The principle of having someone like you is the single strongest way to persuade them,” he said. “When consumers consider a purchase, whether they need or want the product is less important than a seller who appears likable and trustworthy.”

Lindell drives home his own trustworthiness by offering a 60-day money back guarantee and a 10-year warranty against flattening of the foam on his pillows.

It’s a formula that has worked for him. He’s sold 3.1 million pillows, 2.4 million since the first infomercial. It’s a remarkable feat, especially considering that at $60 to $90, they’re not inexpensive.

However, the popularity of Lindell’s infomercial has slipped a bit since its 2011 release. This year QVC is his highest source of revenue, followed by retail and then the infomercial. With the help of two new infomercials to be released in the next two weeks, a two-minute short-form and a 30-minute long-form, Lindell expects to hire another 100 employees with sales rising to $120 million by the end of the year.

With success comes dissent

One change in the new infomercials will be a mention of the number of complaints from the Better Business Bureau. Originally, the infomercial stated that the company had an A+ rating with zero complaints. The company still has an A+ rating, but it has logged 61 complaints in the past three years.

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