Attention: Ballers, Shot Callers & Those With Early Stage Gingival Diseases

Over the last 3-5 years the dental floss market experienced a major shift in its sales volume potential via product improvement. Despite all of the previous advances that had supposedly made flossing easier (waxed nylon) and dual-functioning (zesty mint flavor freshens breath!), the purchaser profile for this product remained stagnant:

People who actively try to prevent the putrefication of their mouths.

Yes, flossing is a huge pain. You’ve got to twirl the thread around your fingers, angle it in, work on one of the main four regions and then repeat. This routine is supposed to take place either during the dark hours of the morning or late at night before bed. Few tedious tasks are ever completed at these times. For many flossing is such a pain that they knowingly risk developing considerable, nasty mouth problems just to avoid the experience.

In mid-2004 my local Brooklyn, NY Target store began carrying a floss product from a mysterious industry player named Den-Tek. They offered what they called “floss picks” that came with a pre-threaded nylon strand on a thin plastic hook – intended for one-time disposable use (seen below).

Conceptually, this was a big step forward in the dental game, as it sought to answer consumers’ cries that proper dental care was a hassle. Unfortunately, this item was a design failure, as the floss in this iteration came threaded parallel to the stick, forcing most of one’s hand into the mouth at an awkward angle to land the floss perfectly into the spaces between the molars. This maneuver proved very difficult.

A slight design tweak was a game-changer of the flossing experience. About 3-4 years ago Crest introduced their fabulous take on the floss pick – unceremoniously named the Crest Glide Floss Pick. This version takes the shape of a men’s razor, with the floss threaded perpendicularly to the contoured handle. Each space between the teeth is now easily reachable with the flick of wrist. It's possible to floss well in 10-15 seconds. I find it hard to explain just how easy it is to use this lazy-man's product. I've transitioned from a twice-a-week flosser into a consistent 6 days-a-week pro.

It will be fascinating to see how Crest and its competitors seize the opportunity that this innovation has made possible. (They haven't done too much as of yet.) Yes, the Crest Glide model is significantly more expensive than the Crest spool variety (2-3 times) -- based on the 30-picks per pack you get vs. 60 flosses per spool. However, I don't think this type of price comparison is apt, and I hope to see Crest address this issue in its messaging, as non-users shouldn't be price comparing against a product they have no intention of using.

The significant growth opportunity in this space is transitioning non-users or light-users to steady gliders. I will propose my reco'd marketing plan in a future post (hint: centered on replacing spools with gliders in those oft-ignored post-dentist visit baggies and tapping into people's fears that their easily remediable laziness is causing health problems).

Gingivites, your dream product has arrived.


sara said...

sometimes, when i'm drunk usually, i floss too hard with those pick-thingies and i tear right through the floss. dental wax is worthless. it doesn't take protective measures at all. i say that from experience.

JTS said...

I use these picks to floss my dog's teeth.

Hadley said...

There is an almost exact product, I think they are called plackers, that I use. Also, the last time I bought Listerine, it came with a free sample of Reach's new version of flosser. I haven't used it, so I can't comment. But there are lots of players in the innovative floss game.

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