Founded 25 years ago, Oatly makes a milk-like product using oats and has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings in Sweden. Today, it is available globally and loved by many people in search of milk alternatives that are healthier for the body and the planet.
Central to their success is of course a great product that hits the mark in terms of flavour, texture, and behaviour. But their story is also a great example of how strong branding, clever marketing and authentic purpose come together to make a business successful.
Oat milk as a product was already popular in parts of Europe, but in the US it really wasn’t a thing for most people. So instead of launching Oatly as a milk alternative available in supermarkets, they took a smarter approach to distribution which has paid off really well. Their distribution strategy in the US was to partner with small coffee shops where proper baristas work their magic. The types of places where they explain flavour profiles of different coffee beans and create works of latte art.
The artisan coffee shop with minimalist interior design and focus on natural products of the highest quality is the perfect environment that the Oatly brand should be associated with. Taste makers in the roasting community see baristas use Oatly, which effectively connects Oatly to the vibe in the shop and launches the product right into the heart of hipster coffee culture.
From there, Oatly uses a combination of witty ads, distinctive packaging and engaging social media content to expand brand awareness. Across all channels and touchpoints, the way Oatly communicates is instantly recognisable with its sarcastic tones and self-deprecating messaging. The brand is serious about its cause, but never takes itself too seriously.
Take its outdoor placements for example. It basically takes a meta approach and comments on its own advertising with a poster seen in New York reading “if you don’t read this ad, no worries. Someone else likely will.” For its UK launch, Oatly took to the subway and the streets with a string of ads that definitely stood out from the rest as you can see in the images below.
As people are becoming increasingly aware of the nutritional shortcomings of cow’s milk, and the negative impact production has on the environment, plant-based milk is quickly becoming a household favourite. In the category, one brand will be top of mind for the majority of people: Oatly.