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UTAH COUNTY -- A fast-growing Utah County business became a YouTube sensation with a product that does not immediately strike you as sensational. In fact, the inventor could not sell it for years.
Orabrush is out to "cure the world of bad breath," and the company discovered just the right whiff of humor to sell tongue brushes worldwide.
"It's a strange phenomenon, I certainly did not anticipate this happening," says Austin Craig, a 20-something YouTube pitchman for the product. He plays a character in a lab coat who seems to know everything about bad breath, and more importantly, how to cure it.
In a way, Craig and Orabrush are helping to define the marketing technique with each new video on YouTube.
Who knew a tongue brush to cure bad breath could lead to such drama and hilarity? Turns out, visionaries at Orabrush in Provo tapped into a marvelous modern marketing method, and turned on customers worldwide through it's YouTube Channel.
50,000 fans tune in each week to catch up with the self-deprecating escapades of Morgan the Orabrush Tongue, and his "Diaries of a Dirty Tongue." Dave Ackerman, a stand-up comic, plays Morgan.
We caught up with Ackerman as he was shooting holiday spots with a video crew.
They're all a bit amazed at how wacky ads on YouTube deliver sales results for a tongue brush.
"People tune in, and kind of, don't even realize that they're watching a five-minute commercial every Tuesday," says Ackerman. "Every week, we have people e-mail us to say, 'This was hilarious, I just ordered my Orabrush."
Before Morgan, Austin Craig went viral as The Orabrush Guy. He says, he simply made a video one night with friends.
"A couple weeks later, my co-workers are saying, have you checked the view count on your video? It's got tens of thousands of views. It's got 50,000 views. You're hitting 100,00 views, have you watched this?"
13 million hits on that first video; 30 million views of the series. Orabrush launched exclusively on YouTube and Facebook. It went from zero to one million dollars in sales in less than a year, and expects a boost from holiday stocking stuffers.
Now, Orabrush is in 20 Walmarts along the Wasatch Front and 30 retailers globally, after years of retail rejections for the Springville inventor.
"For every two dollars of advertising, we sold one dollar worth of product," says Robert Wagstaff, chuckling about his early futile efforts.
As a mission president for the LDS Church in the Philippines, Wagstaff was getting complaints about the bad breath of his missionaries. He had some science background and eventually invented the Orabrush to solve the problem.
Wagstaff never made a dime on his invention until he found Jeff Harmon in a BYU business class, and followed his blueprint for Internet success. Last year, the work paid off.
"In August, we made our first sale. Never made money in August. But, we did in September, and October and November, and the rest is history." CEO Jeff Davis was a former Procter & Gamble executive. Their idea was to develop a friendship with potential customers, raise their awareness about bad breath, and sell them a cheap simple product.
"We are going through channels to get our message out, create awareness and encourage people to purchase the product," he says. "We've just done it in a reverse way." Orabrush has a quarter-million Facebook fans. Colgate and Crest have less than a fifth of that. Now, Orabrush plans to translate that internet success into even bigger retail sales.
While it's a "reverse marketing" model, Davis says Orabrush needed all of the components of typical marketing to succeed: a good product, good science behind the product, and an engaging message delivered by motivated workers.
"The three generations are about building a great world-class company, " says Davis.
A 76-year-old inventor, a Fortune 500 executive, and a handful of whizkids and creative types from BYU. A business mix that is cleaning up.
"Wow, we're like pop culture right now," says Ackerman with a big grin. "We're something out there."