It's case study Wednesday, and have I got a good one for you. It's the unlikely tale of Orabrush, the first product to go from no sales online (or offline) to nationwide retail distribution using YouTube as its sole marketing medium.
Our story begins with Dr. Bob Wagstaff, the inventor of the Orabrush, a tongue scraper, or a modified toothbrush with a wider head. While it may be effective in scraping bacteria and other gunk off your tongue to cure bad breath, Dr. Wagstaff had difficulty selling it by conventional methods for eight years. At one point he even spent $40,000 on a TV infomercial to sell about 100 units.¹
Desperate, the good doctor connected with a group of MBA students to come up with a new marketing approach. One such student, Jeffrey Harmon, suggested the Orabrush be marketed on the web. Wagstaff was dubious, but agreed to pay Harmon $500 to produce an online video to test his theory.
Over a hundred YouTube videos later, Harmon heads up the marketing team that has helped Orabrush sell 2.1 million units and land national retail distribution at Walmart.¹
It all started when a Walmart store manager saw one of the Orabrush videos on YouTube, bought one, liked it, and wanted to carry it in his store. In time other visiting Walmart managers saw the Orabrush in-store display and were so impressed that they wanted it in their stores as well. Within a few weeks, Dr. Bob had about 20 stores throughout Utah carrying Orabrush.
Orabrush was on its way.
The group then decided to craft a video specifically designed for the top brass at Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, AK.
-Their YouTube Videos,
-Sales numbers for the test market in Utah,
-Videos of user reviews,
-Media coverage from companies like Fox Business, NY Times, Inc Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.
Knowing they likely needed to do more, Harmon decided to run a geo-local Facebook ad targeting all Walmart employees near corporate headquarters.
The ad poked fun at employees' halitosis: "Walmart employees have bad breath...Walmart needs to carry Orabrush!"
The ad cost $28.
Orabrush had gotten calls from smaller retailers who wanted to meet in person, set up a number of phone calls, receive literature on the product, yada yada.
Walmart took a decidedly different approach. The retail giant eventually sent an email asking whether Orabrush could support 735,000 units.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Orabrush is a prime example of a rags-to-riches success story for the digital age. Starting out of a garage in 2009, the plucky start-up used YouTube as its sole marketing medium, and by 2011 they were in every Walmart store in the US.
How did they do it? Orabrush's Austin Craig credits Walmart for giving its local managers the freedom to pick up local products and run with them. To this I would add the flexibility of Walmart's executive team for its receptiveness to a new digital marketing technology, in this case social video.
Whatever the case, the success of Orabrush highlights three ways you can use social media to revamp your marketing practices:
- Leverage the Exponential Reach of Social Media. Using YouTube's social video platform, Orabrush was able to creatively promote its novel tongue cleaner to a broad audience of potential customers. This online direct marketing approach facilitated a quick, intermediary-free sales experience between producer and consumer. It also offered an ideal context for Orabrush to collect and curate user-generated content in the form of customer video testimonials, i.e. more promotional content.
- Use Social to Go Local- Orabrush's YouTube marketing attracted a big prospect, in this case a local Walmart store manager. This is a perfect example of a brand using the global nature of social media to foster a local business relationship.
- Incorporate Geo-Local Ad Targeting - Unlike GM, Orabrush's Facebook ad spend paid off in spades. Why? Because the company thought outside the box and designed a campaign with a specific end in mind, to reach Walmart employees. Social media advertising can be very effective when it is used properly, i.e. create a buzz, increase dynamic engagement with a target audience or to build a brand following. As Orabrush showed, Facebook's copious user data is best suited for a precision rifle rather than a shotgun.
On a final note, Orabrush got one thing right that most start-ups get wrong: they kept it simple. With limited resources, they chose a marketing tactic and stuck with it. Their plan didn't have too many moving parts or elaborate phases: create some videos, attract attention, sell Orabrushes, and find a way to get national distribution.
Granted, I'm making it sound easier than it doubtless was (things always sound easier with the benefit of success and hindsight). However, the Orabrush experience illustrates how brands can use social media specifically, and technology broadly, to redefine and disrupt long-held business practices.
This point was not lost on Walmart. When considering a multi-million dollar deal, their entire interaction with Orabrush consisted of a series of email exchanges.
In today's fast-paced, uber-competitive, information-soaked business environment, technological efficiency and operational simplicity not only provide an edge to your business, but are often the difference between success and failure.
Just ask Orabrush.
Video courtsey of Orabrush's YouTube channel