How to make successful viral advertising campaign on YouTube in 7 easy steps: the Orabrush story

I kid a little bit with that title, but hopefully in the service of a good point.

If you talk to people in advertising, Madison Avenue people with automatic cappuccino machines, bean bag chairs and whiteboard filled rooms for brainstorming, and tell them that you’d like to make a viral video, they’d sneer at you. Maybe even write disparaging things about you on their Tumblr.

You can’t set out to make “viral advertising.” It just happens. Everyone knows that. Right?

That’s why I got such a kick out of the Nightline piece above about the essentially scrappy band of misfits behind the Orabrush. A septuagenarian inventor crafts a tongue-scraping device and then tries mightily to market it via informercial and direct to retail with no luck. Then he visits a marketing class and pitches his concept. It doesn’t impress many, but it does stand out to one fellow who thinks he can use YouTube to market this product to the masses.

This is one of those superb David-and-Goliath stories. And it goes to show that sometimes an oddball set of circumstances can conspire to create extraordinary success.

The Orabrush story is like a textbook for overcoming the long odds of getting noticed as a small business in a crowded space, the Internet. And so I urge you to watch it, study it, and consider the following steps these folks took to becoming the second-most subscribed channel on YouTube.

Step 1: Craft a killer backstory

Everyone loves and underdog, and in their online launch, the Orabrush gang really took pains to make the people behind the brand characters: the inventor, the marketing student, the spokesman. Even when they created new characters (Morgan), they invested time in making him three-dimensional. It shows.

Step 2: Get over yourself

In the video, the marketing director notes that people are barraged with so much advertising that they no longer need to pay attention. So in planning an online video campaign, don’t get precious. Do be funny.

Step 3: Be hungry

Here’s another area where the small guy has a huge advantage over the Goliaths of advertising. We have more hunger. We have more to prove. Be willing to stake everything. You’ve only got one shot–act like it.

Step 4: Make it great

Two things I want to observe about the first Orabrush commercial, which was made for $500. It looks fabulous, and it features a guy with terrific presence and charisma. These things do not have to cost the earth. You can shoot with a DSLR to get a slick look, and you just have to cast around and experiment to find that magnetic figure that will bring your product to life. Both are essential, and both take work. Aim high in this regard. Don’t just shoot with a Flipcam or you iPhone. Every little bit that can set you apart is important.

Step 5: Be where other people are not

A great hook in this story is how the business school class underestimated the power of the online audience. One person’s 8% of the market is another person’s goldmine. And on paper, a video about a tongue brush doesn’t sound all that promising. But the success here just goes to show that getting into an emerging space with a creative point of view can really capture interest.

Step 6: Worship your audience

Making a video that people want to view and share is just the first step. It’s also essential to craft a plan that includes participation, and the Orabrush guys have done this brilliantly by creating a section for their fans to talk about their product. An army of evangelists, if you will.

Step 7: Don’t get too comfortable

The marketing director here makes another canny observation here, and that’s if you set out to make a class in internet marketing, “every semester the text would change.” Ad agencies are not in a good position to switch tracks or, God forbid, “make it up as we go along.” Flexibility is a huge asset for the small business. Use it to your advantage.

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  1. 4 Reasons No One’s Reading Your Email Newsletter (and What You Can Do About it) | jellybean boom - February 28, 2011

    […] colleague of mine and I were talking about the awesome Orabrush story, and how the marketing director is quoted as saying, “if you created a class on Internet […]

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