The Sledgehammer

Finding Wisdom in Teeth

September 17, 2019

At any given time, there are 200+ actual sledgehammers present in the Heartbeat office. To celebrate the first year on the team, each HB’er receives their very own sledge—a nod to our daily pursuit of tearing down tiresome healthcare marketing. To determine what is built in its place, we often turn to outside industries, cultural forces, and personal experiences. We eagerly share them with one another, and now we’re sharing them with you. Clear the way—here comes The Sledgehammer.

There’s no use in pretending otherwise—taking care of one’s teeth has traditionally been, well, annoying. The twice-daily brushing regiment feels tedious, so many of us do it poorly and inconsistently. Going to the dentist is not particularly enjoyable and sometimes even painful, so we loathe that too.

Dental care brands don’t do much to resolve this negativity—one of the most dentist-recommended ways to care for your teeth is by using an electric toothbrush and even that is straight-up inconvenient! You’re dealing with a toothbrush that’s inexplicably bulky, has a cumbersome corded charger, and requires very expensive replacement heads. Despite this, Philips and P&G have cornered 85% of the electric toothbrush market; the next closest competitor has 0.4%. Who’s audacious enough to sink their teeth into that challenge?

Quip, that’s who.

Quip is a subscription-based dental care service. You buy their sleek, streamlined electric toothbrush and can sign up to get replacement heads, batteries, and toothpaste every 3 months. You can also integrate your dental checkups with Quip’s Dental Connect program where you receive appointment reminders and rewards for timely cleanings. From their seamless refills to their integrated provider services, their product design to their attractive marketing—Quip is bringing delight to dental care… for maybe the first time ever!

How have they fared? Well, they have sold 2 million brushes in just four years and are currently the #2 oral care brand at Target—converting current electric brush users and amassing new ones.

To use Heartbeat’s own categorization of a challenger brand, what can other factions of the healthcare industry learn from Quip?

Rewrite the rules of the game: Just offering a better product wouldn’t be enough—Quip seized on the insight that it was poor brushing habits that were actually a detriment to dental health. So they added services and content that overhauled these habits: auto-delivery of brush heads & batteries, digital dental visit reminders and rewards, even two-minute video clips to encourage the recommended brushing time. As a result, Quip brushers feel fully supported across the dental health spectrum—just by engaging with one brand.

Challenge convention: Quip overtly outted the unnecessary, feature-focused approach that their competitors take with toothbrush design. Does your toothbrush really need WiFi? Do you actually need 8 brushing speeds? Do you even need color bristles? No and no and no. This honesty set them up as an ally to the consumer (a huge boost when only 30% of consumers trust corporations) and it offered a compelling value proposition to switch to a simpler solution.

Do what others will not: Dental care marketing has long been a sea of stale sameness—unsexy product shots, faux sparkling effects, and “4 in 5 dentists recommend…”. Quip presented itself as a smart and user-oriented alternative by creating a brand that looks, feels, and acts more like a cool grooming routine than tired ol’ tooth care.