Once Upon A Time, There Was A Tongue Cleaner...

Crap. I’m wrong again. It turns out you can tell a story about anything.

As faithful readers of this column know, lately I’ve been obsessed with stories, more specifically, whether some brands, in some categories, will actually have any to tell. If they don’t, this will come as a huge disadvantage in a world in which brands, like people, have Timelines on Facebook. (Sometimes this discussion gets scarily close to Mitt Romney territory -- but please, just roll with it.)

Seriously, though, can’t you just picture a brand making a big deal on its Timeline about that new packaging or logo that no actual human in their right mind cares about?  Who the hell cares?

If telling stories is a problem for you, dear brand manager, the Social Media Insider is here to tell you there’s hope, in the form of a tongue cleaner called Orabrush! I knew nothing about it until it was presented as a case study at OMMA Global San Francisco on Tuesday -- and now I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Like many people in the room, I didn’t even know the category existed until Tuesday. It’s pretty hard to care about something you know nothing about.

But as the presenter, Austin Craig -- who also stars in the brand’s videos -- explained, Orabrush has been able to make people care, to the tune of almost 17 million YouTube views for the inaugural video alone, which premiered about two years ago.  (You can watch a Ustream of his terrific presentation here; it, too, seems to be wracking up a lot of views.) Orabrush’s brand channel is YouTube’s third most popular, behind Apple and Old Spice, brands that have lots of money and know how to use it.

The story told in the original video is one of a halitophobic: someone (Austin) with a fear of bad breath, or more precisely, a fear of other people having bad breath. You have to watch the video, and some of its equally funny offspring, to fully get this, but suffice to say that Orabrush managed to take a product that is unknown, prosaic and is also sorta gross -- a brush for your tongue? -- and give it a story.

And, yes, it’s a story that sells. This social media phenomenon caused retailers to call from all over the world. It also caught the attention of a Walmart store manager in Utah, and, within months, the brand -- which featured a retail display that plays off the YouTube videos -- was distributed in Walmarts throughout Utah. But getting the attention of the people at corporate in Bentonville, Ark. was, well, another story.

When Bentonville was in the consideration phase of carrying the product on a broader scale, Orabrush created a Facebook ad, targeted only to Walmart employees in and around headquarters. Titled, “Walmart Needs Me!”, it proclaimed, “Walmart Employees have bad breath … Walmart needs to carry Orabrush! It will sell better than anything in your store.” It cost $28. Soon after, Orabrush received an order from Walmart to produce 735,000 Orabrushes. (The product is also carried by Albertsons, Winn-Dixie and others. You know I’ll be buying mine at my home-away-from-home: CVS.)

Are you impressed yet?

I could go on, but I’ll give the (almost) last word to Gray, who told the audience: “We’ve been very careful at Orabrush about crafting our story. We have a story to tell, and in telling that story, we further the story itself.” Exactly.

The story is not over yet, but, when it is, my prediction is everyone will live happily ever after --  partly because their tongue cleaner ensured that they no longer suffer from bad breath.



4 comments about "Once Upon A Time, There Was A Tongue Cleaner...".
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  1. Jason Klein from Selligent, March 22, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.

    Orabrush taught me a valuable lesson that you shouldn't judge a brand by your perception of its product. I was at OMMA Global and walked out before this presentation, questioning how interesting a preso on tongue brushes could be. Turns out from your article and tons of tweets that I was wrong. I won't be making the same mistake twice.

  2. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, March 22, 2012 at 3:59 p.m.

    I busted out laughing at the 735,000 order from WalMart - I dealt with QVC years ago and had the same "great" type of order.

    It almost put us out of business.

    Good story(up until now), thanks.

  3. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost, March 22, 2012 at 4:04 p.m.

    Thanks guys. Jason, it's interesting you should say that. I almost left to take care of a few details for my track after the Intel preso, which was also excellent, but this story grabbed me right away, completely unexpectedly.

  4. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, March 22, 2012 at 11:52 p.m.

    WHat is even more amazing ois that the product is totally useless and is totally unnecessary. So kudos to them for not only creating this marketing sensation, but for doing so with a totally useless product.

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