Q&A with Orabrush CMO Jeffrey Harmon
Recently I was lucky enough to catch up with Jeffrey Harmon, Chief Marketing Officer at Orabrush.
For those unfamiliar with Orabrush, it’s a tongue cleaning product that following a series of failures, including approaching oral care manufacturers and an expensive infomercial, turned to social media. What happened next is amazing.
Orabrush literally went from nobody’s to social media superstars thanks to its inventive, unique and hilarious approach to pitching their product on YouTube. Thirty-eight million views and nearly 150,000 subscribers later, the tongue cleaner manufacturer is now a huge commercial success and retails around the world.
It is perhaps the best case study of a brand using social media to build its profile, engage with fans and drive sales. The Orabrush team has shown that with a little creativity it is possible to turn the conventional advertising model upside down.
1. In your view what are the main advantages of online PR and social media versus traditional PR?
Some of the advantages include immediate access by those interested and the inherent mobility of web based communication. If people like what they see, it immediately gets passed around.
2. Just how important is social media to Orabrush – what social media do you use?
Social media is fundamental to Orabrush’s marketing strategy. Our main tool is YouTube. Of course it’s a video sharing platform, but it’s also an extremely vibrant social community. We’ve immersed ourselves in that culture and become a part of it. Our channel has over 150,000 subscribers, and our videos have been seen almost 40 million times. We also have over 290,000 “Likes” on Facebook. We use that platform to push out our videos, get immediate customer feedback, and drive traffic to other media that impact or talk about Orabrush.
3. Beyond advertising, what does Orabrush use social media for?
We’ve used social media in virtually every aspect of our company. We release a video on our YouTube channel every week. Some are meant only to entertain, some are meant to sell. We’ve made video press releases to announce company milestones. We made individually tailored videos to contact people who may otherwise be difficult to reach. We’ve used video in the checkout section of our site to keep the customer informed about their purchase and to let them know about other things they could see. We also use Facebook to get immediate customer feedback on ideas, designs, or directions we’re thinking of going.
4. How would you describe Orabrush’s approach to YouTube and social media in general?
We engage the audience. Sometimes that means we simply entertain, sometimes it’s asking questions. We want to make sure there is plenty to talk about, so we make videos every week. We watch the trends in our ecosystem (mostly YouTube) and discover and codify best practices. In short, we do what social media is best at doing: We make new friends and make old friendships stronger.
5. The Orabrush YouTube channel has had nearly 40 million views, what was the thinking behind the it and the humorous infomercials?
We sell the Orabrush through our videos, but we also upload our weekly vlog. It’s not meant to sell, but it gets our brand seen and recognized by the community. We stay engaged with the audience and become an authentic part of the community. People like the brand because we’re essentially online friends.
6. What impact has social media had on Orabrush’s reputation and it’s bottom line?
It has made all the difference. Before we tried social media, our sales and brand recognition were nil. We tried an infomercial, that didn’t go anywhere. Now things are much better.
7. How would you suggest that other small brands look at social media?
Decide what you want to accomplish. Choose where you’ll play, whether its Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or some other tool. There is a lot of benefit to focusing on and figuring out the best way to use it. But some of the most important things in social media are: be present, be social, be authentic.
8. As a client, what more can agencies do to demonstrate the value of social media?
Make it work for them and don’t over promise unreasonable results. There are smart ways to engage in social media that don’t rely on a video going “viral” or taking an approach that is too gimmicky. Try a campaign and set measurable, reasonable, specific goals to determine whether it was successful. Also keep in mind that the end result of a social media campaign may be different than a traditional public relations or marketing campaign. Depending on the tools used, the measurements will be varied, but the campaign will still be effective.
9.In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about social media?
That social media is a magical black box for people who don’t use it. Kids use it, businesses make money from it, but outside observers will admit they don’t “get it”. That’s easy to fix. Start using it! Once people get involved, find the areas they connect with, they’ll start to understand the communities. Maybe the biggest misconception is when people think there is some magic special sauce for success. There isn’t. Get involved, experiment and figure out what works for you.
10. How do you measure and evaluate the value of your social media activity?
The easy answer for Orabrush is sales, but that isn’t the whole story. We do plenty that doesn’t immediately drive the bottom line, but improves the brand image. We estimate our social activity and social capital with whatever tools we have access to. We watch the likes, comments and subscriptions on our channel. We watch to see if people share our content. There are response videos, parodies, and knockoffs. There isn’t a single perfect way to measure, but with all the interactions available through social media, it isn’t hard to estimate your impact. You create your own dashboard, and you get to change it and adapt in ways that are most beneficial to your company.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Jeffrey for taking the time to talk to us about Orabrush and providing such an insightful Q&A. I wish him and the rest of the all the very best for the future. It’s a wonderful hometown, start-up success story and I’m sure there are more chapters to come in this fantastic tale.