Social media and the million-dollar tongue scraper

Nov. 25, 2013
You've heard the mantras time and again. "Social media is important." "Content is king."

By Glenn Lombardi

You've heard the mantras time and again. "Social media is important." "Content is king."

They are all correct. But that does not excuse them from feeling like marketing-speak sometimes – fat with promises but thin on results. If this is all such common knowledge, where are all the social media success stories?

To put it bluntly, they are everywhere, and the victories come in all shapes and sizes. Plenty of dentists can attest that social media has been one of the primary factors in their practice's growth, but the power of social media does not stop at generating referrals and new patients.

It can be limitless. In one particularly memorable case, it was the engine that drove the rise of a multimillion-dollar oral health brand.

In 2009, a creative social media campaign transformed a small Utah company called Orabrush into a market leader. Today, the company's YouTube channel has more than 41,000,000 views and almost 200,000 subscribers clamoring for fresh material at every opportunity. What are all these viewers lining up to see? Commercials for tongue scrapers.

Despite the fanfare, that's really what Orabrush is at its core. The patented brush is designed with soft bristles rather than a simple plastic blade. It does its job, cleaning tongues, well. But no matter how innovative the product, the real star is the social media marketing that kick-started its ascent. It was a feat that could not have been accomplished any other way.

When Dr. Robert Wagstaff invented the Orabrush in 2000, he found it impossible to sell. Infomercials and direct-to-retail efforts proved fruitless. It was not until Wagstaff took his product to a marketing class at Brigham Young University that he found one intrepid marketing student with a unique idea: sell it with social media, namely YouTube.

Their first video was a humorous, tongue-in-cheek educational piece on how to prevent bad breath with the product. It aired only on YouTube, and cost just $500. But the response was so explosive that it spawned an entire social media campaign, one that can only be described as "unique."

I would recommend looking up "Orabrush" on Google so you can watch some of these pieces firsthand because putting them into words causes a certain loss in translation. But the basic gist is this: a sweaty-looking guy dressed in a giant, foam-rubber tongue costume behaves reprehensibly. Unorthodox, yes, but even more effective.

The ads depict the tongue-suit mascot barreling over kids in a little league football game, making lewd jokes, and living in a tiny, filthy apartment. He is, literally and figuratively, a dirty tongue. This is exactly what Orabrush prevents.

Even though it sounds (and is) ridiculous, it works. Thanks to this campaign, Orabrush recruited a Fortune 500 executive as its CEO, was picked up by Walmart, and is now sold across the country. To date, Orabrush has sold more than 3,000,000 units. This was done almost exclusively through YouTube.

So how do you sell millions of dollars' worth of tongue scrapers without a single second of television ad time? You find the holy grail of social media: educational content so engaging that people are not only willing but eager to participate.

In short, you become an expert at implementing the 3 E's of social media: education, entertainment, and engagement. Orabrush's content represents an extraordinary unity of these principles. The campaign is evidence that when these principles are applied properly, social media can make an enormous impact in a practice's bottom line.

Clearly, this tale is the exception rather than the rule, but that does not change the lesson here. Social media, when it grasps the 3 E's and executes, is powerful. Even more importantly, it's a resource that every dentist in the world has at his or her fingertips.

So, even if you do not have the capacity for out-of-the-box campaigns like "Diary of a Dirty Tongue," everyday platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and YouTube are at your disposal. Your content, especially blogging, is ready for the 3 E's approach.

Social media might not make you millions selling fancy tongue scrapers, but it will keep you connected with patients in a way that nothing else can. If you do not have a social media campaign, start one. If you do not know how, find a company that does. With a proper social media campaign and a little creativity, you never know where your practice might end up.

Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, a provider of dental websites and Internet marketing strategies, including social media, search marketing, reputation management, and mobile websites. Officite has built thousands of websites that have generated more than a half million new patient appointment requests since 2002. For more information, visit or call (800) 908-2483.

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