Bringing Innovation to a Complacent Category

Reimag­in­ing oral care through simplicity

It’s a fact: Nearly half of U.S. adults have some form of periodontal disease and simply aren’t aware of it. To help address this dilemma, Zeus Jones and entrepreneur James Hagen partnered in 2014 to launch Boka — an oral care company focused on changing the conversation about dental and whole body health.

James Hagen
Cofounder & CEO, Boka

I’ve always been involved in oral care as my mom was a den­tal hygien­ist. But as I start­ed look­ing at the over­all den­tal cat­e­go­ry I began notic­ing a lot of issues. From unnec­es­sary, com­pli­cat­ed-sound­ing ingre­di­ents to overde­signed tooth­brush­es with fea­tures that don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly con­tribute to den­tal health.

Eric Frost
Cre­ative & Found­ing Part­ner, Zeus Jones

When James came to us with an idea for a sub­scrip­tion oral health brand, we saw it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do some­thing inno­v­a­tive in what’s large­ly a stag­nant busi­ness. Go to any oral care aisle in Tar­get or your local gro­cery store and it’s all the same — both in terms of look, feel and promise.

From the very begin­ning, we were invest­ed in chang­ing oral care and shap­ing it into some­thing that was actu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial, not just bluster.

Amanda Zweerink
Strate­gist, Zeus Jones

When we first start­ed look­ing at the space, the idea of holis­tic health was real­ly a moti­vat­ing fac­tor. Your over­all den­tal health is direct­ly tied to the health of oth­er organs, even your immune sys­tem. And a lot of wide­ly accept­ed den­tal brands con­tain pol­lu­tants that you wouldn’t want to be with­in 50 feet of, let alone put in your mouth.

We knew we had to cre­ate prod­ucts to a stan­dard well beyond the category.

Alex Register
Design­er, Zeus Jones

The brand and prod­ucts were all built at the same time — which helped every­thing hold togeth­er super strong instead of hav­ing a bunch of pieces that fought each other.

We stripped down our prod­ucts as much as pos­si­ble — always ask­ing: How far can we pull them back? How can we add val­ue rather than unnec­es­sary fea­tures? So we did that…and our flag­ship prod­uct was a sim­ple tooth­brush with char­coal bris­tles. It need­ed a name that matched the sim­plic­i­ty of the prod­ucts. So we called it Boka, play­ing off the Span­ish word for mouth.”

James Hagen

The brush real­ly was only the begin­ning. We start­ed look­ing at ways we could bring this inno­va­tion to every­thing in con­sumer oral care. Tooth­paste was next on the list. Then we moved onto floss and even tapped into the cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non of oil pulling — a detox rinse for gum heath. 

I think one of the biggest real­iza­tions we had as we devel­oped these prod­ucts and our brand was we real­ly need­ed to bring some life and lev­i­ty to some­thing that’s usu­al­ly seen as a drag. There can also be a lot of anx­i­ety when you’re talk­ing about oral health. We want­ed to meet peo­ple where they were at — not shame them into using our products.

“So we planted our brand in positivity — from the colors of our brushes to championing the benefits of holistic dental health.”

William Fendler
Cre­ative Tech­nol­o­gist, Zeus Jones

To real­ly bring that home, we need­ed to make sure the web expe­ri­ence fol­lowed suit. Our entire busi­ness is run online so the way peo­ple inter­act with our site and set up orders is extreme­ly important. 

We held our­selves to a sin­gle stan­dard: The feel of the site had to be just as pow­er­ful as the words on it. That meant each inter­ac­tion was con­sid­ered to make every ele­ment invit­ing and helpful.

James Hagen

All of these deci­sions have had such a huge effect on the brand itself. From the the unbox­ing expe­ri­ence to the site expe­ri­ence, peo­ple always com­ment on the details — and it has been abig dri­ver of our suc­cess to date. 

Birch­box loved the brand­ing and prod­ucts and became a key launch part­ner. Plus, we’ve got­ten some fan­tas­tic press, includ­ing Vogue and Men’s Health. We’ve even been rec­og­nized as one of the Twin Cities’ most inno­v­a­tive con­sumer com­pa­nies in the Eure­ka Awards, all in our first year of operation.

We shipped our first box­es in late 2015 and in less than a year, we’ve already proven the need for the busi­ness. We’ve reached a sol­id lev­el of sub­scribers, both direct­ly and through den­tal offices that are using Boka as a new patient engage­ment tool. 

James Hagen

But even bet­ter are the dai­ly sto­ries I hear about how we’ve inspired peo­ple to make brush­ing and oral care more of a rit­u­al than a chore — thanks to the pow­er of our design and voice. To us, no amount of recog­ni­tion is greater than pos­i­tive change at the micro-level.