Oral B: world's first 'connected toothbrush'
Oral B: world's first 'connected toothbrush'
A view from Stephen Squire

Accelerate the NPD process by tapping into crowdsourcing

Get in touch with leading-edge consumers and find ways to connect their needs to new technology possibilities, writes Stephen Squire, global oral care marketing director at Procter & Gamble.

Crowdsourcing can give big businesses a competitive advantage at a fraction of the cost of traditional research methods and proved invaluable as we set out to launch the world’s first "connected toothbrush", the Oral-B PRO 6000 SmartSeries brush.

Controlled by an Android or iPhone app, it tracks users’ brush strokes, provides personalised guidance and collects data that can be used by dentists.

It was junior staff members who came up with the idea of a connected toothbrush, spotting an opportunity in the market to connect the "quantified self" consumer to improved oral care. At first, I was sceptical. It seemed like the number of people actually interested in such a device to carry out what is generally considered a chore would be limited. But after discussions with dental professionals, the opportunity to establish a first-mover advantage meant I was willing to try something different.

In oral care, it’s very hard for consumers to connect their actions to a result. So the design process became about figuring out how we could help people improve their oral care by connecting their routine and habits to an improved result.

The idea of being the third, fourth or fifth company to launch a product like this became unacceptable to me. The speed at which technology is developed today meant we needed to move fast, and the key question here was, what was the fastest way we could we do this? From initial concept to on-the-shelf product, it was decided that we had 18 months to deliver, which would stretch our internal capabilities well outside their comfort zone.

However, using crowdsourcing, via online platform eYeka, immediately exposed us to a rich tapestry of possibilities and answers concerning what people really wanted from a connected toothbrush. Compared with a more traditional product development process, sourcing ideas from an online creative platform meant we were connecting with expert, creative consumers who are able to come at the problem from two angles; firstly, a normal consumer’s understanding of the problem we were trying to solve, and secondly, a technologist’s understanding of the possibilities it presented.

The past 18 months have been a key learning period for me and my team, and through this project, we’ve built a lot of momentum as a company.

Don’t dismiss outright any ideas that your team presents to you. Get in touch with your leading-edge consumers and find ways to connect their needs to new technology possibilities. We are excited about the product we have been able to create largely thanks to crowdsourcing the innovative ideas and inquisitive minds of an engaged and interested global community.