Oral-B and eYeKa: Creating something to really smile about

C. Laughren    June 19, 2015

Oral B logo



Organization: Oral-B

Industry: Dental Health Care

Web references: Oral-B, wikipedia, eYeka, YouTube, Peanut Labs, MaRS

Once upon a time, product developers used blindfolded taste tests and home delivery (snail) mail campaigns to involve their customers. Those days have long passed into our collective nostalgia as trivia game questions. Today, we are truly on the cusp of formative changes in how companies engage consumers in designing and developing their products. Consumers are no longer content to buy/receive products and services; they want to actually participate in the development process. One of the ways to elicit this consumer involvement is through crowdsourcing, a social community group created around the need to generate ideas and/or content about a concept, product or problem.

Image Oral B people

Can Oral-B crowdsource toothbrush innovation?

As consumer behaviour becomes more savvy and health conscious, oral care is becoming less about the traditional and more marketing-driven notions of fun interactivity.

Take a children’s song like Raffi’s “Brush Your Teeth”. It may no longer motivate the ‘fun’ in teeth brushing without a princess/super hero toothbrush, even better if the brush lights up and the bristles spin. Better still, the parents also have matching toothbrushes that flash to a timer.

How does an oral health care company know what consumers from different countries, cultures and languages want in their latest products?

Oral-B (a Procter & Gamble company) is a worldwide leader in the over $5 billion teeth brushing market. It’s their mission to help consumers achieve better lifelong oral health through a variety of teeth brushing and cleaning products for children and adults. Many of us are familiar with their toothbrushes from our dentist visits. That’s because Oral-B’s manual toothbrushes are used by more dentists than any other brand worldwide.

With the global consumer marketplace becoming more fickle, Oral-B is feeling the  pressure to be more innovative. In 2013, Oral-B went on a mission to maintCrowdsourcing pic2ain its leadership position. They knew they needed a key product innovation that would transform an ordinary tooth brushing experience with interactive technologies. This meant a complex information-collection exercise from consumers and dental professionals in different countries in a relatively short period of time. Oral-B did not have the resources, money or best approach to organize a project of this breadth. What Oral-B did have was a substantial motivator ─ they had to get to a new, innovative product to market before Sonicare (Philips), their top competitor in electric toothbrushes.

In a strategic move, Oral-B challenged eYeKa, an online crowdsourcing community with the insights of an agency, to reveal what a connected electrical toothbrush could offer their consumers. Here’s Stephen Squire, Procter & Gamble’s Oral Care BFO Marketing Director, with a summary of their challenges and their choice to engage the help of eYeKa:

The eyes of the world were on Oral-B in March 2014 at the GSMA Mobile World Congress meeting where the “revolutionary” Oral-B Bluetooth-Enabled Toothbrush and App was unveiled, with further improvements released one year later. Said Mr. Squire, “In partnership with dental professionals and consumers (via eYeKa over the past year), Oral-B has created the next generation brushing experience that utilizes personal goals, unique dental considerations, and entertainment to ensure our consumers are getting the best possible results outside dentist chair.”

Meet the world’s first Oral-B Bluetooth-Enabled Toothbrush (click image to see how it works):

Image_new brushOral-B’s drive for product innovation is working. Tracking results indicate improved worldwide oral care behaviors in a number of important measures. The Oral-B App has been downloaded nearly 300,000 times since its launch, with 87 percent active users in the month of December 2014.The App data shows that the Oral-B electric toothbrush users are now brushing on average 2:24, an increase from less than 60 seconds with a manual toothbrush. And, Oral-B has maintained its front-runner position.

The success enjoyed by Oral-B and the “richness of ideas” was rooted in their decision to engage the eYeKa community. In 22 days, eYeKa received 67 ideas from 28 countries – everything from personalized dental routines to interest in learning proper techniques, and the gamification (or turning a chores into enjoyment) of the brushing experience. Their recommendations and insights were critical to Oral-B gaining a head-start in having their product to market, as well as having the right content and approach for the family interaction element. As Squire said, “the quality of thinking would never have been possible without eYeKa’s involvement”.

So far, it looks like Oral-B found the consumer advantage they were looking for in their product development. And it sounds like eYeKa has one satisfied customer!

So who is eYeKa?

Image Eyeka2

eYeka’s online community numbers more than 300,000 creative individuals active in 160 countries. Their members participate in challenges based on company projects, using their individual and collective creativity to solve real business problems. They help to imagine new concepts, develop and design better products, and co-create appealing social content – all with their fresh ideas and unique perspectives. Leading companies like Unilever, Coca-Cola, Estee Lauder, SFR, Hyundai, Puma, Nescafé, and Johnson & Johnson involve the creative might of eYeKa.

What happens when the crowdsourcing project ends?

Simply put, Oral-B was wise not to drop the ball!

Image Fcaebook ask

Facebook – “Tell us what you think”

Product development doesn’t just stop once the crowdsourcing project is over. Oral-B, or any company who uses a crowdsourcer, must maintain ongoing involvement and consideration of customer input and feedback to continue refining/upgrading their products.

Facebook comments & replies

Facebook – Example of prompt responses

For example, on their Facebook page, Oral-B is openly welcoming public product reviews. They encourage real and creative input from their customers by suggesting individuals submit product reviews for their electric toothbrushes, including their new Bluetooth model. To-date, 38 customers have taken the time to make personal videos for feedback. In addition, Oral-B is prompt (within 24 hours) in responding to fan comments or concerns. The personal touch is maintained in suggestions to call their toll-free number for a conversation in place of a typed exchange.

By continuing to invest their resources in Facebook and other channels for customer dialogue, Oral-B is ensuring those consumer relationship – and product loyalty – continue over the long-term.

Lessons for others 

The power of new product development lies in the potential to meet customers’ needs more closely than the competition. If a company chooses to work with a crowdsourcing provider, the consumer dialogue doesn’t end with the project. Here are a few principles for maintaining ongoing customer engagement:

  1. Be accessible to inspire customer loyalty. Maintain easy channels for customer communication and encourage dialogue with current and potential customers by being open and reachable.
  2. Listen to customer and community feedback. Continue to use known channels, like user groups, online communities (FaceBook, Twitter, Goggle+), and blogs, to gather and respond to feedback.
  3. Identify the opportunities for modifications. Monitor customer feedback to look for common areas of concern which could result in opportunities for ongoing product improvement.
  4. Involve select customers in testing product modifications. Contact the customers who stand to gain the most from your modifications and invite them to test your new offering.
  5. Stay alert to your customer’ feedback. Leverage ongoing customer dialogue to hear about new needs and emerging trends can help your company stay ahead in the market.


Submitted by: C. Laughren, University of Waterloo

To contact the author of this entry, please email at: claughre@uwaterloo.ca

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.