For years, Hasbro has marketed Sound Bites, a lollipop that plays a song in your head as you eat it. With Toothtunes, a $9.99 power toothbrush that launched in New York metro stores earlier this month and goes national in January, kids will hear the songs when they brush their teeth.
The idea is to get kids to brush for the full dentist-recommended two minutes-the length of specially edited Toothtunes recordings from artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Hilary Duff, Kiss, Queen and Kelly Clarkson.
The songs can only be heard when toothbrush bristles are in contact with the teeth-just like with the lollipop, only it helps prevent tooth decay rather than potentially causing it. The music can't be heard at all outside the head-by users or nonusers-and the songs sound best when kids brush up and down, to encourage good technique.
It's all based on patented Hasbro technology with a very impressive name for a kids' product: denta-mandibular sound transduction, said Jeff Jackson, VP-marketing for the Tiger Electronics unit that markets the brand. The toothbrush marries that technology with another Tiger product-Hit Clips, which are like kiddie iPods that hold two-minute clips of popular music on plastic chips.
As music marketing goes, Tiger is getting some enviable price points. Thanks to the music, Toothtunes pushes the price of a power brush that might normally go for $5 up to around $10.
And Mr. Jackson is hoping kids will want many brushes because they'll need a new brush for each song.
"There will be kids who will want to have Hilary Duff's 'Wake Up' in the morning and perhaps Black Eyed Peas or Kiss at night," he said. Toothtunes, which has 12 songs in its New York rollout and online at toothtunes.com, will have 17 by January and hopes to add singles over time.
A 30-second ad from Wondergroup, Cincinnati, breaks Oct. 23, using what Greg Livingston, exec VP of the agency, sees as something of a mash-up of Apple's famous "1984" spot and Oliver Twist. The idea-for the ad and the product-came from observing home lives of the brand's 6- to 12-year-old target, which frequently involved parents nagging kids to brush their teeth or to brush longer. "Kids find it incredibly boring," Mr. Jackson said.
Others have tried entertainment to lure kids to brush longer. Oralgiene and Dr. Fresh tried 60-second cycles using songs and flashing lights. But the songs tend to be along the lines of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and don't appeal to older kids, Mr. Jackson said.
"The novelty wears off very quickly" with most of these products, said Tom Vierhile, director of Productscan Online. But he believes the tie-in with pop music could be the saving grace for Toothtunes, helping drive repeat purchases when kids lose interest in the songs. He also sees it as one of the most creative ways personal-care marketers have found yet to integrate popular entertainment into their products.
The fun appeal also has helped win over artists who might otherwise hesitate to use toothbrushes as a medium, Mr. Jackson said.
New tunes will tend to be heavily kid-oriented and will have to stick to two minutes.
But he doubts anyone could or should keep brushing through long-playing rock anthems. "With 'Stairway to Heaven,"' he said, "you'd need dentures when you were done."