Mattress Interview

Case Study

May 22, 2018


A moment from The Mattress Interview at the November 2012 Switch Workshop hosted by Jason Fried and The Re-Wired Group at the Basecamp Headquarters in Chicago. The Mattress Interview was immortalized in Clayton Christensen’s Competing Against Luck book. Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek – Partners at The Rewired Group, Brian Walker, CEO at AEGroup and the Mattress Buyer. None of the 30 plus people in attendance would have guessed we would still be talking about this interview years later.


Switching Workshop
Jobs-to-be-Done Interview



We think marketers are taught incorrectly around correlation versus causality. They try to correlate that I’m 52 years old and I live in this zip code and I have this kind of car and therefore I have a propensity to buy that product or service. They are triangulating around data but they don’t know what actually causes me to buy something today. They’re almost treating innovation as luck. By doing that, they look at probabilities and everything revolves around this notion of correlation as opposed to causality. With Jobs, we actually go back and look at the progress people are making and we understand the dominoes that have to fall for you to say, “I’m buying a mattress today.”


Typical questions that come to mind about why a consumer would select a mattress would be about the features.

  • Is it soft enough? Is it hard enough?
  • Is it too deep? Will my sheets fit it?
  • What else did you consider?
  • How important is price?


Focusing on the product features leaves consumers’ emotional and social needs unexplored. This approach doesn’t uncover what jobs they want to accomplish or the reasons why they buy.


Jobs To Be Done takes a different approach, uncovering the situational context around the decision, constructing the timeline of all the triggers that ultimately led to the purchase decision. In this interview, Brian Walker opened the story sharing he and his family were walking through Costco on a Saturday morning and impulsively purchased a mattress. However, deeper discussion brings to the surface a more complex process.

JTBD timeline

The interview uncovered that while he claimed to have purchased the mattress on impulse, he’d been thinking of replacing his mattress for over a year. He wanted to get a good night’s sleep so he could be a better husband and father when the rest of his life was exhausting him. Each night that he slept on his current mattress, he moved closer to firing it. Each morning he used Advil to manage his aches and pains and drank Red Bull to keep alert. The purchase of the new mattress was less about how great it was – the pillow top, number of coils, warranty and other its other features – and more about it not being his current mattress.

Forces of progress


During the interview there was very little talk about the features of the mattress. Other aspects of the experience were more important to the decision and ultimately the moment these challenges were solved, the purchase happened.

  • Retail experience tension – high pressure sales force not present
  • Switching anxiety – what if my spouse doesn’t like it? how do I get rid of the old one?
  • Non-Traditional category competitors – no longer worth the tradeoff


That Saturday morning in Costco amongst the chaos, all the forces of progress came together. The push of the situation and the magnetism of the new solution overcome the habit of the present and the anxiety of change. He had reached the end point with their current mattress, he and his wife were together in the store and Costco’s return policy enabling them to return it if it didn’t work out made it easier to make the purchase at that moment, than any other alternative.