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By B.L. Ochman

A tongue scraper which promises to cure bad breath – aguably one of the unsexiest products in the world – has achieved viral video success, the holy grail of online marketing, with an initial budget of $500 and a motorcycle.

The company has sold more than 2.5 million of its $9.99 halitosis bashing tongue cleaners via more than 100 whimsical and campy YouTube videos. Now Orabrush is set to tackle dog breath – which 99% of dog owners would probably describe as stinky – with new Orapup.

“With Orapup,” promises Orabrush’s 76 year-old inventor Dr Robert (“Dr Bob”) Wagstaff, “your dog cleans it’s own tongue, eliminating bad breath at the source—without even knowing what it’s doing!”

With more than 49 million video views and more than 185,000 subscribers, Orabrush’s Cure Bad Breath channel is one of the top subscribed sponsor channels on YouTube (behind brands like Apple and Old Spice) and has more than 340,000 Facebook fans. Lest you think that social media success hasn’t translated to sales, Orabrush is sold in 15 countries, via more than 30,000 retail stores globally and has become the No. 1 tongue cleaner in the world.

Crowdsourcing a new version, for dogs
To raise the money to manufacture the new Orapup, the company mounted a campaign on the crowdsourced fundraising site, href=””>Indiegogo and quickly surpassed its $40,000 goal when nearly 2500 people (including me) invested small amounts in the new Orapup.

In return for a minimum $15 contribution, backers can preorder a limited edition Orapup and receive other Orabrush products as perks. Orapup, which will be manufactured in the United States, is scheduled to hit store shelves beginning in Q1 2013.

Designed by Dr Wagstaff, the Orapup combines ultra-soft pointed bristles with four in-line scrapers, which collect and remove bacteria from the dog’s tongue. A formula made with FDA-approved ingredients that the company claims will help prevent gum disease and reduce tartar is applied to the surface of the Orapup to entice dogs to lick the brush, allowing them to clean their own tongues.

A Really, Really Tough Sell
Orabrush was definitely not an easy sell at the start. Dr. Wagstaff only sold about 100 units in eight years, during which he spent $40,000 on a slick TV infomercial. Frustrated, he turned to an MBA marketing class for help. The class concluded that 92% of online users would not buy an Orabrush online, and recommended that Dr. Bob not even try. But one of the students, Jeffrey Harmon, said 8% of the Internet population is millions of potential customers, and suggested targeting them with videos.

Harmon’s first production, “The Bad Breath Test,” has been viewed more than 17.5 million times, and amassed more than 23,000 “likes” (along with 10,200 “dislikes.”)

Harmon tapped Austin Craig, an intern he managed at his full-time job, to star in the first video. “How much would I have to pay you to be in a video for me where you rant about bad breath?” he asked. Craig responded, “A hundred bucks.” He’s been known ever since as “The Orabrush Guy,” starring in scores of YouTube videos.

Harmon’s friend, Joel Ackerman, whipped out a script as a favor. They shot the first video in a pool hall, and if you listen closely you can hear pool balls cracking against each other during the video.

Bad Breath Detector iPhone App
In the three years since that video premiered, the company has cultivated a massive, loyal online following which has played a critical role in breaking into traditional retail by demanding to see the Orabrush in the stores they frequent the most.

Besides videos, there’s an Orabrush Bad Breath Detector app for the iPhone, which has been downloaded more than 300,000 times. It was promoted with a YouTube video, natch. That video has more than 1.7 million views. YouTube also drove more than 300,000 downloads. Don’t know if it works on dog breath.

The company also cheekily made an Orabrush iPhone 4S video parody which has had more than 215,000 views. There are more than 100 customer-made videos on the Orabrush “Cure Bad Breath” channel, and 57 “Diary of a Dirty Tongue” videos with titles like “iJustine Loves Tongue,” and “My Toilet Happy Place.”

Jeff Davis, CEO of Orabrush, said in a recent press release, “Online video is the core of our Reverse Marketing Model.” The company depends on the videos and other social media participation to create awareness among consumers and foster demand for the product in stores.

And, oh yeah: the motorcycle: Jeffrey Harmon traded eight months of his evenings doing Orabrush marketing for a motorcycle Dr Bob wasn’t using. He had student loans to pay and couldn’t afford a car, so he thought he got a great deal.

I hope he also got a piece of the company!

Stay tuned to see if dog breath really can be cured.