Jane Applegate is reporting live from SXSW in Austin.
It’s too bad Austin Craig couldn’t attend the SXSW session titled “Viral Is a Dirty Word: Strategic Video Success,” but he didn't buy a SXSW Interactive pass. The clean-cut Orabrush spokesman's zany videos have attracted 46 million views on YouTube and helped sell millions of the tongue brushes—which claim to cure bad breath. He definitely would have mixed it up with Robert John Davis, who heads up advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather’s interactive video team and was leading the session.
Davis, who declined to mention any videos his creative team has produced for major corporate clients during his lively presentation, contends low-budget clips are not the best way to promote products.
“The viral myth is you put [a video] on Twitter and get one million hits,” said Davis, adding that in the “marketing space nothing is free.”
Granted, he and his colleague Jeremy Sanchez, who heads up Ogilvy’s search strategies group, make their living producing high-quality video clips for clients. They outlined a strategy that relies on producing high-quality clips with great creative content, a focused distribution plan and a way to measure response.
Davis said fewer than four percent of all YouTube videos get 100,000 views or more. Still, the appetite for online video is huge, with 170 million Americans watching about 1,000 minutes of online video every month. Every video must have a strong call to action that prompts the viewer to immediately click through to your Web page. Put your Web address at the beginning of the video because “they’ll never see the call to action if it’s at the end.”
He also reminded the crowd that YouTube is in the process of changing its player design, making thumbnails—the small images related to the video—more important than ever.
Yet silly, super low-budget online videos are working extremely well for Orabrush, a small Utah-based company. By offering a free brush in exchange for Facebook "likes" and YouTube views, Orabrush has sold about 2.3 million brushes and has 313,000 Facebook fans. And based on the success of its viral video campaign, Orabrush now has distribution through major retailers, including CVS and Walmart.
Bob Wagstaff, Ph.D., now 75 years old, invented the Orabrush. He started looking for a cure for bad breath, which is usually caused by bacteria on the tongue, while supervising a team of Mormon missionaries in the Philippines.
“Dr. Wagstaff was getting complaints from the locals that his young missionaries had horrendous breath,” says Craig, a Brigham Young University broadcast journalism graduate who also served as a Mormon missionary, in Washington and Idaho.
Craig—who ended up crashing another SXSW session along with the opening night party—says Wagstaff, an engineer, had started designing a silicone brush to deep clean chicken skins for a client. The brush he designed had very fine silicone bristles similar to the brushes used by surgeons for scrubbing up before surgery. The brush was too expensive for the poultry company, but Craig said Wagstaff realized the human tongue is very similar to bumpy chicken skin.
Although the brush worked well, Wagstaff was having a tough time convincing consumers to buy a product they didn’t know they needed. After eight years of trying to sell Orabrush to drug store and retail chains, he was ready to give up. In 2009, he challenged marketing students at the Marriott School of Management at BYU, to figure out a way to sell the brushes online.
Unfortunately, the research they conducted revealed that 92 percent of people surveyed said while they would try the tongue-cleaner, they were unlikely to buy it online. Another BYU student, Jeff Harmon, now chief marketing officer for Orabrush, heard about the project. He encouraged Wagstaff to try to reach the eight percent who might buy the $4.49 brush online. (The brush lasts as long as a toothbrush).
Dressed in a lab coat and giant plastic goggles, Craig enthusiastically demonstrates how cleaning your tongue can prevent bad breath in a series of online videos. New Orabrush videos feature an actor dressed in a tongue costume. The clips are so popular, sales continue to soar.
“We thought the first video would be a one-off,” admits Craig, who is frequently recognized by fans. He said he never dreamed of being a YouTube star. “I’m a bit embarrassed because my ultra-conservative father thought I would be the next Bill O’Reilly.”
Photo credit: Courtesy Orabrush