Oatly Marketing Analysis
April 4th, 2022
By: Payton-luv Stine
Unlike most brands who pride themselves on a clean, flowing aesthetic, Oatly perfectly executes a messy, seemingly “unplanned,” colorful and mismatched feed. Of course, the company has entire teams creating content, writing captions, and arranging posts for weeks if not months in advance, but this seemingly unorganized display of information allows the brand to feel unique, it gives Oatly a personality that is not clinical or corporate, but fun and approachable. Oatly’s clever aesthetic paired with great copy and a fantastic mission have allowed for it to create a brand that is centered around transparency, reliability, and personality, three qualities most brands lack.
Oatly prides itself on transparency, and I think rightfully so. They are a CPG brand that creates products with a high environmental impact, but also a much lower environmental impact than the dairy alternative. Oatly knows they are doing better, but that they still haven't reached their “best.” Instead of pretending to be perfect and have zero impact on the environment, they are upfront about the mistakes they’ve made and the room they have to grow. Posts like this are a great example. This “We Suck” post refers to their serving-size milk containers that (used to be) paired with a plastic straw. Instead of making excuses for themselves, they recognize their hypocrisy and talk about the change they made, and why it didn’t happen sooner, calling themselves out in an honest and upfront way, while also giving themselves a pat on the back for making the change without being boastful or obnoxious about it.
Oatly also releases extensive sustainability reports on its website. While this practice is becoming more mainstream for businesses trying to reach the green consumer, Oatly uses these reports not as a way to make themselves look good (well at least not explicitly) but instead as a way to build trust and rapport with their consumers. The brand didn’t release its 2019 sustainability report until November of 2020, and they comically called themselves out for being late to the party and for seeing increased C02 emissions with increased production. However, instead of nasty and judgemental comments under this post, you see only praise and respect for their dedication to continued transparency.
This is also because Oatly speaks in ”regular people words”, instead of flooding their sustainability report with scientific jargon no one understands. When they do have to use scientific terminology, they make sure to have a “translation” of sorts explaining. This is important because it allows consumers of all backgrounds to read and understand the information Oatly is putting out. There’s no level of hiding the impact with highly intellectual words or phrases, something many brands do.
The brand also does a great job of knowing its audience and what is relatable to them. This post for example is a carousel titled “When your parents say…” referring to all the common comments parents, family and friends have about veganism.
Oatly takes advantage of events like Black Friday and the social media and e-commerce traffic that is going through the roof at times like this to further their stand on environmental and social issues, the impact business has on society, and their dedication to moving towards net positive, to being a “good” brand. This most recent Black Friday instead of participating in “a random holiday built on perpetual wastefulness and reckless consumerism” (according to the Oatly team) Oatly took this opportunity to remind their fans and consumers of the pointlessness of the holiday all the while putting their own spin on it. They offered a bunch of ‘vintage’ stuff they “found lying around our offices” so consumers could get their hands on “one of the preloved, totally-free items presented.”
The company also uses its firm stand on environmental issues to tap into a market of consumers with similar mindsets. This alignment in purpose creates an overwhelming amount of support and user-generated content.
For example, Oatly took advantage of a values-oriented holiday competition, #Trashoween, and made it their own. Oatly used this as an opportunity to create hilarious content like their corn and french fries costume, but it also created tons of user-generated content from individuals with no affiliation to Oatly. Content at the friends and family level is far more influential than an influencer or a celebrity’s posts because the audiences are so different. This is a personal anecdote, but my little sister for example loves collecting recyclable materials and making art out of them. When she saw the Oatly #trashoween challenge she and all of her friends were excited to go finish their Oatly milk and start making rocket costumes ASAP.
In terms of transparency and relatability, Oatly hits the mark just about every time. One area where they are not reaching their full potential is user-generated content. While they do have posts about writing your own caption, harping on their social media team, Oatly could take this to the next level.
Their #trashoween competition was a great way to create user-generated content that actually went on to influence others, rather than stay isolated to the Oatly page. A few of the posts with #trashoween were from users with 5-10k followers. These are the kinds of users, the ones who are posting to friends, family, and acquaintances, but those who really want to see their content that is going to have an influence on their decisions and potentially even their buying power. With the network of sustainability-minded consumers and individuals on their page, they have developed a community of like-minded individuals who believe in their mission, and love their product. Now it’s about getting those people to share their opinions and their love for the brand. Whether this means incentivizing individuals more directly to repost educational content, or more Oatly trash challenges, or maybe something like an Oatly recipe challenge, where users share a recipe they have created using Oatly. It doesn’t have to be complex, and Oatly already does some of it. They just need to do a little more.
About the Author:
Payton-Luv Stine is one of the Spring 2021 Co-Content Directors. She is a senior at NYU Stern studying Marketing and Sustainable Business and minoring in Animal Studies.