No more talking toothbrushes, please

  • Business
  • Tuesday, 17 Jun 2014

Get innovative: Has your toothbrush been talking to you lately? Could you come up with a TV ad that doesn't involve a talking toothbrush?

CAN you recall a toothbrush TV commercial you have seen recently? Does it feature a talking toothbrush or a man dressed as a dentist dishing out advice? Chances are, many of you have seen such TV commercials.

In fact, I cannot even recall one toothbrush TV commercial I have seen that does not feature either the dentist or the talking toothbrush.

The only difference is who the toothbrush talks to. Sometimes the toothbrush talks to another toothbrush. Sometimes it talks to the germs. Or maybe I have not watched enough TV commercials for toothbrushes.

I find this intriguing and being one of those people who constantly ask why and why not, I of course wondered why there creativity in toothbrush TV commercials is lacking. When I mentioned this to a colleague, she challenged me with, “So, what would YOU do?”

I admit it was tough. Having grown up on a solid diet of talking-toothbrush TV commercials, I could not immediately think of something new and creative. The challenge is not so much about creativity.

I’d say it’s about how you ultimately make people want to buy a particular brand of toothbrush after watching a TV commercial. After all, it is JUST a toothbrush, something most people use every day without thinking.

Now, this leads me to the actual topic of today’s column. No, it is not about how to make a TV advertisement for toothbrushes.

It is about that word that has been brandished around so much that it has in effect become “cheap”.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I would like to talk about innovation. The thought leaders and innovation gurus will tell you innovation is not always about coming up with something new. It can also be about doing something differently or in a new way.

The problem is, most of us are creatures of habit. We are generally averse to change.

We lean towards a stable routine rather than a constantly changing environment. Particularly SMEs, which do not have that many resources. Once we find a way that works, we stick with the same — forever, if possible. Why rock the boat?

Unfortunately, we do not live in a constant world. Our world is ever evolving and changing, especially in this information age and with new technology emerging almost every other day. Can we afford to not change and not innovate?

For some, innovation is about developing new products and services that have never been offered before. For others, innovation can be just a new way of offering these products and services.

For example, when first started, it completely reinvented the way we purchase books. Books are ordinary products. They are printed in the same format and nothing much has changed for several hundred years. But it is the way they are sold on that changed our world and the way we buy books. Incidentally, one of the reasons why Jeff Bezos,’s founder, chose the name Amazon was because it was the name of a place that sounded “exotic and different” to him.

I believe for SMEs, change and innovation do not mean revamping our organisation and rebranding. It is about asking what we can change with what we have, and challenging ourselves to do something new.

Also, contrary to popular belief, some of these changes do not require a huge budget or commitment of resources. Imagine now, you are a young little boy in a class full of bigger boys. Think, “How can I get the teacher’s attention? How can I stand out?”

I believe if we want to, we will find a way. It is just a matter of being brave to set our brain free and do the unconventional.

Perhaps start with the business plan and marketing plan. I personally believe that these have at most a three-year shelf life.

Every three years, we need to think of what we can change and what we need to change for what we are doing now. If we are doing that, we are already innovating.

By the way, I do have some ideas to replace the talking toothbrush and dentist TV commercial.

> Personally, Jeanisha finds normal stuff boring. Two years ago, she made her team wear bathrobes and hold toothbrushes to deliver Christmas songs to customers and some media companies. If you are as “crazy” as she is, share with her at

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Opinion , Starting Out column


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