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How Orabrush Went From YouTube To 3,500 Wal-Mart Stores

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Orabrush, which makes a soft, pointed bristle brush that helps people reach back into the mouth to scrape and remove bacteria from the tongue to help cure bad breath, began running paid-search ads on google.com early in the summer. Company marketers started with a few basic terms and keywords that convert well, such as words related to bad breath, kissing and oral hygiene.

In 2010, Orabrush sold about $2 million in brushes -- but Jeffrey Harmon, chief marketing officer at Orabrush, reluctantly estimates the company's sales growth at more than double this year, based on the product now available at Wal-Mart. The retail partnership, announced Tuesday, put 76-year old Orabrush inventor Robert Wagstaff on the map as being the first startup to use a social media strategy to get products into Wal-Mart stores.

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While Harmon points to the $28 Facebook ad buy and the creative YouTube videos for helping to get the $5 tongue brush into 3,500 Wal-Mart stores, if you take a look at the videos, perhaps that pat on the back belongs to the brilliant marketing strategy designed by him and the Orabrush marketing team in the 20-person company.

Paid-search ads on YouTube for Orabrush mean serving up in the promoted video section. Optimization on YouTube helps the videos rank in the "related video" section. Staying competitive also means getting less expensive ad buys, Harmon said. "The paid-search ad platform on YouTube doesn't have complex keyword systems," he said.

The words "kiss" or "kissing" gain Orabrush lots of impressions through YouTube Promoted Videos. It works along with "smell your own breath" in the company's ads.

The YouTube search platform will likely become more sophisticated. Harmon said the "guys at YouTube who work on the search product" admit "it's not there yet," although comScore rates Google Sites -- driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube -- among the top online video content properties in July with 158.1 million unique viewers.

VEVO ranked second with 62.1 million, followed by Facebook with 51.4 million viewers, Microsoft sites with 49.5 million, and Viacom Digital with 47.3 million, according to comScore.

It turns out that Orabrush's YouTube strategy initially did not rely on videos to gain backlinks. They just happen to attract The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Harmon said, with a chuckle. "The videos are the link bait," he said. "They weren't created for that purpose, but it works well."

Harmon also supports the site through search engine optimization (SEO). He said the YouTube videos prove that good content helps companies gain links needed to move up in the search engine query rankings without having to search for them. Before working at Orabrush, he tried to gain links for another company without success. At Orabrush, the links come easy.

Two years later, Orabrush's YouTube channel shows nearly 40 million views, trailing only YouTube pages for Old Spice and Apple.

How did Orabrush get into Wal-Mart? Harmon bought ads on Facebook's self-service platform in Bentonville, AR -- Wal-Mart's headquarters -- with ad copy stating that Wal-Mart employees had bad breath. Within 48 hours, a Wal-Mart VP and one of its chief wholesale products buyers saw the ad and contacted Orabrush.

The product department scrutinizes every possible product for sale through online and its physical stores. I know. I spent two days at Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. in September 2004, speaking with executives on the IT team.

Harmon calls the model "reverse marketing" -- backwards from how other products go to retail. Orabrush went from zero sales online or offline to international retail distribution using YouTube. "We're the first," he said. "I say the first because I think there will be many more."  

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