Orabrush has sold $1 million worth of $5 tongue brushes through its YouTube channel, which isn’t branded Orabrush but Cure Bad Breath, along with major drugstores that are beginning to stock it on their shelves. No wonder the small Provo, Utah company enticed Jeff Davis, a 23-year Procter & Gamble executive, to become CEO.
“YouTube videos reverse big companies’ marketing equations” said Davis to the New York Times. “What P&G taught me is a different model — you have an idea, build a prototype, have a test market, scale the product, find a retailer and distribution, then turn on marketing. This was the reverse. We basically launched the entire brand on YouTube and Facebook.”
Inventor Robert Wagstaff, now 76, created the tongue brush for bad breath more than a decade ago when he gave a class on oral hygiene to missionaries in the Philippines, having discovered that most of the bacteria causing bad breath live on the tongue rather than the teeth.
Wagstaff built the prototype, applied for a patent, but after dozens of failed pitches to dentists and retailers and a $50,000 TV infomercial, he almost quit trying to sell it. He enrolled the help of a Brigham Young University student, Jeffrey Harmon, now 27, who suggested creating a funny video about bad breath and putting it on YouTube. Wagstaff hired Harmon for about $500, and the rest is halitosis history.
According to Shishir Mehrotra, director of product management and video monetization at Google, “one of the big surprises is what’s happening with small advertisers” on YouTube.
“As soon as I could see we were making as much or more money each day than we spent on ads on YouTube, I knew we had something,” said Harmon, now CMO for Orabrush.
New weekly installments of “Diaries of a Dirty Tongue” have attracted dozens of YouTube celebrities to create their own promotional videos for Orabrush.
“What they did was really smart, to get your product endorsed by these alpha dogs of the community you identify with,” said Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, an Internet television company. “Going viral is diametrically opposed to building that trust and relationship between a media property and an audience. Brands spend all this time thinking about how to make something go viral when they ought to think about how to create a meaningful relationship.”
According to Salar Kamangar, co-head of YouTube, Orabrush is “the type of product you can’t sell with search, you can’t sell with display, but it’s uniquely able to sell because of the power of video’s medium. These are user-choice ads, things that people are choosing to click on.”
Orabrush’s YouTube channel has been viewed 24 million times. 40,000 people subscribe to receive e-mail updates of new Orabrush videos, making it the seventh most-subscribed channel, ahead of brands like Disney, BMW and Nintendo Wii.