With slogans like "poop your plants" and "get locally laid," the four young companies still standing in Intuit's competition for a Super Bowl ad are showing gusto in the chase.
About 15,000 small businesses entered Intuit's "Small Business, Big Game" competition this summer, a pool that has been whittled down to four finalists. The winner will be determined by popular vote, which continues online through Dec. 1. The three runners ups will each get a spot that will air on Fox Sports 1, while the grand prize winner will earn a 30-second ad, developed by RPA, during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. Meet the four contenders:
Barley Labs, Durham, N.C.
What they do: Barley Labs makes dog treats out of barley that's left over from beer brewing. Only founded in September 2012 by husband-and-wife team Theresa Chu and Scott Beaudry, Barley Labs was a lovechild inspired by the couple's rescue dog, Barley, and Mr. Beaudry's passion for home brewing beer.
Marketing efforts before this: Barley Labs is on social media, has a website with a blog and does traditional media outreach, landing placement in a handful of local media. Barley the dog serves the critical post of chief inspiration officer. "Quite frankly, she has a much more interesting personality than either Scott or I do," Ms. Chu said.
The company also does local sponsorships and sets up tables at community events, which helps promote Barley Labs' philanthropic mission: 10 cents from every bag purchased goes to a local animal shelter. Ms. Chu said a national ad will catapult the business from helping local shelters to donating to them across the nation.
What sets them apart: Their story of rescuing Barley from a shelter is one many Americans can relate to, according to Ms. Chu. "We love dogs. We love craft beer. We love rescue organizations," she said. "If people feel the same, in any sort of combination of the three, we hope we'll get their support."
Fun fact: The pumpkin treat, one of the original Barley Labs flavors, was created after a vet recommended 100% pumpkin puree to settle Barley's upset stomach.
Poop Natural Dairy Compost, Nampa, Idaho
What they do: Founded in January, Poop makes compost for lawns and gardens from the manure of holstein dairy cows.
Marketing efforts: Beyond the website and social media, Poop has blossomed thanks to the strong local network the three managing partners have. One of them, Ben Bieri, spent 10 years in local radio and has contacts who can put him on the air and spread Poop's message, while all three of the founders come from large families that are well-incorporated within the dairy and agriculture community.
Making it this far in the competition has helped. "When we first got into the top 20, we would joke about, who knows how this is going to go for us?" Mr. Bieri said. "It's either going to go gangbusters for us or it's going to sell us 10 more bags. We've already sold those 10 extra bags, so now we're looking at gangbusters."
What sets them apart: An eye-catching name and slogan. "That's one of the coolest things about having a business named Poop: Everybody's got a joke," Mr. Bieri said. "Everyone is in on the joke with us."
Fun fact: Poop sponsored a softball team over the summer. Everybody's number was 2.
Locally Laid, Wrenshall, Minnesota
What they do: Husband-and-wife team Jason and Lucie Amundsen sell pasture-raised eggs from their hens, who forage and exercise on green fields. The company was built around the idea that hens who get exposure to the outdoors will lay a better-tasting egg -- a practice Mr. Amundsen said sets them apart from "big agriculture."
Marketing efforts: Locally Laid began with basic efforts in 2012 such as the website, Facebook and Twitter, and has gotten a good amount of earned media, as well. The company also engages in cause marketing, planting a tree for every delivery the company makes. As the competition heats up, Locally Laid is also creating its first promotional videos and has hired a graphic designer to create promotional materials.
What sets them apart: The flirty slogan, for one: "Local chicks are better." The company also drafted a letter to best-selling agriculture/garden author Michael Pollan about the efforts, and it worked; Mr. Pollan these days can be found telling the Twitterverse to vote for Locally Laid.
Fun fact: In round two of the competition, before the field narrowed to 20, the Amundsens Googled "small business, big game" and saw their company consistently coming up as the second or third search result. They were so skeptical that their company was gaining traction, Ms. Amundsen drove to a local hotel and performed the check on a computer there -- to the same results.
GoldieBlox, Oakland, California
What they do: GoldieBlox tries to break down gender stereotypes and barriers by designing engineering toys and books for girls. It's the brainchild of Debbie Sterling, a Stanford graduate with a engineering degree. She created the company in 2012.
Marketing efforts: If the other small business finalists are newborns, GoldieBlox is at least a toddler, in terms of business development. A Kickstarter campaign in fall 2012 raised more than $285,000, and last week, GoldieBlox's two-minute ad went viral, earning more than 8 million hits and counting. This week, the ad has come under fire for its soundtrack, a version of the Beastie Boys' "Girls" that GoldieBlox recorded with some revamped lyrics. The Beastie Boys said GoldieBlox never asked for permission to its music; GoldieBlox answered with a lawsuit against the Beastie Boys asserting that it has the right to parody the song.
What sets them apart: "GoldieBlox started out and continues to be a labor of love," Ms. Sterling told Ad Age in an email. She said her company has been astounded by the response to the video, adding, "I can only imagine the impact 100 million potential views will have -- not just for our business -- but for the opportunity to spark an interest in engineering and technology among kids and parents everywhere."
Fun fact: The name GoldieBlox came to Ms. Sterling in the shower, when she was brainstorming old fairytale characters to inspire the brand. When Goldilocks popped into her head and the pun occurred to her, "I ran out of the shower with soaking wet hair to my computer to see if it was available, and it was," she wrote.