More Than Just Bristles on a Stick

The Plain Dealer Marketing Section Tuesday, April 24, 2001 More than just bristles on a stick By Mya Frazier Plain Dealer Reporter

It sounds a bit hokey, but it just might make sense for a new Cleveland marketing tag line – Visit Cleveland: the nation’s capital of toothbrush innovation.

You remember the spin brush, right? The low-cost battery-powered toothbrush that debuted in late 1999, developed by Dr. Johns Products Ltd. of Bedford Heights. The spinning toothbrush quickly became the best-selling individual toothbrush in the country before being bought out by consumer products giant Procter & Gamble for an undisclosed amount. Most likely, Dr. Johns investors and owners walked away either millionaires or close to it.

Next to hit store shelves; the Giggle Brush, which (you guessed it) makes a giggle-like noise when moved back and forth, and the PopOut toothbrush, which uses a plunging device to cover the bristles with a movable shark or a dolphin figurine when not in use. Both retail for $2.99.

Good Marketing Inc., a Cleveland-based youth marketing firm, got the Giggle Brush idea from one of its 14 free-lance inventors.

“For a long time, toothbrushes were just bristles on a stick,” said Bruce Good, owner of Good Marketing Inc. “Kids just didn’t want to brush. This teaches good oral care.”

After undergoing the development and design stages, Good Marketing then licensed the manufacturing and distribution to Kabam Products LLC, a one-man firm based in Warrensville Heights. Jay Pearlman, owner of Kabam, also invented the PopOut toothbrush. Kabam is handling manufacturing and distributing for both products.

I have no emotional attachment to anything,” Pearlman said. “The goal is to build it, sell it and start something else.”

Pearlman, 29, hails from Cap Toys (maker of Spin Pops, lollipops that spin around at the touch of a button), where he worked as director of sales before the company was sold to Hasbro Inc. in 1997.

He thinks he can spot a market winner. After all, his father, Alan Pearlman, was one of the original investors in the spin brush and walked away with some of the buyout money. “This is a toy, but it offers a parent a positive reinforcement for the child. They are buying something that’s good for the child,” Pearlman said.

Here’s the typical scene: screaming, whining, heartfelt pleas, candy-laden bribes. It’s nothing other than tooth-brushing time with your toddler. And it all seems like so much frustration. But to Pearlman, it all seems like an ideal moment for profit.

In fact, the whole field of health and beauty products seems like a gold mine to Pearlman. His vision for Kabam is to apply toy concepts to other products, such as soap, toothpaste and shampoo.

“Big companies rely on small companies for innovative products, and then they go out and acquire those companies,” Pearlman said.