A new marketing plan for Oatly
They’ve created an incredible brand. But growth has stalled, competitors have entered, and their stock is 1/10th its IPO price. Where can the brand go next?
In the brand world, Oatly is a standout — a multibillion company built largely off of a stunning rebrand and standout advertising. Oatly boasts strong awareness, memorable tag-lines, and commands a price premium for a largely commoditised product.
And yet, Oatly’s stock price is down 87% off their high, dropping from a valuation of ~$20Bn+ to $2Bn after debuting on the stock market less than a year ago.
What went wrong?
Supply chain issues are part of it. But the other part is marketing.
Oatly’s IPO valuation depended on Oatly’s ability to sell a raft of new products — oat spreads (butter alternative), oatgurt (yogurt alternative), and oat ice cream (self explanatory).
And that is where Oatly’s marketing has been a bit too successful. Oatly is not an oat company. Oatly is an oat milk company:
- The tagline ‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ made a clear case to buy Oatly over cow milk.
- Oatly’s lawsuit with milk companies solidified Oatly as an alternative milk brand.
- Oatly’s ‘Post Milk Generation’ branded the no-cow milk movement.
Oatly’s innovations also center around milk. Oatly’s barista blend foams and blends in a latte where other plant milks soy and almond don’t. This product feature was so successful that a 2018 shortage of oat milk across New York coffeeshops made international news. But butter doesn’t need to froth. Neither does ice cream.
Oatly has started to put marketing spend behind its new products. But the messaging, Tastes totally normal, does not drive desire for oat ice cream or yogurt. Vegan butter and ice cream already exists. Oatly’s products need to be better than normal to drive demand.
What got you here won’t get you there
Oatly’s ‘better than cow-milk’ marketing strategy created a strong reason to switch habits. And Oatly’s frothy product delivered. But an anti-milk platform won’t grow the brand into new avenues.
To regain its $12Bn+ valuation, Oatly needs to reposition itself.. again. They aren’t the oat milk brand, but the oat-oat brand.
Oatly’s growth plan: make Oat the Goat.
Oatly does have some oat messaging. But it’s boring. It tells consumers that the brand ‘only does oats.’
Oatly’s oat messaging sometimes focuses on oats being environmentally friendly. This is also cool. But (unfortunately), sustainability messaging only gets you so far. To sell, sustainable products need to be good products. Take Tesla. It’s a sustainable car. But Tesla gained fame and market share by being the ‘cool’ and sporty sustainable car.
The good news: oats are objectively great. They are super nutritious, with oxidants and high vitamin content. Oatly should market these benefits in a campaign around the greatness of oats to reposition itself as the Oat company, and support the benefits of oats with sustainability.
Campaign Idea: House of Oat
Oatly stands out in media via irreverent campaigns that make fun of the marketing and corporate-speak associated with Oatly’s big CPG competitors.
In this campaign, Oatly will continue with this fun rebelliousness: Oatly will not look like a normal food company. Instead, the company will transform its marketing to that of a high end fashion house: House of Oat (and poke fun at serious fashion companies in the process).
1. Introduce House of Oat during fashion week with a viral runway show
Oatly will re-introduce its oat products to consumers by hijacking fashion-week with its own fashion show. But instead of high-end couture, Oatly will debut the House of Oat line of oat-based ice cream, spreads, creams, and drinks. Invitation to celebrities and influencers will pull in audiences, while Oatly can touch upon sustainability with an anti-fast fashion message (rewear last year’s clothes, buy oats instead).
We can even cover up the famous model’s faces and replace them with the real star of the evening: Oats! Imagine a fashion show of Oatly’s new stars, featuring the likes of Bella Hadid and Harry Styles... but you don’t know its them until they post about it later.
Oatly can poke fun of itself with photography that features celebrities, with copy that suggests the brand has no idea who the celebrity is, but damn that healthy, nutrient dense, environmentally friendly oat-gurt looks fine next to them.
2. Dress up celebrities with House of Oats
“Who are you wearing?” is a popular question on the red carpet.
As part of a PR strategy, Oatly will offer to dress celebrities, particularly those with climate interests, in their House of Oat lines during awards shows, with sustainable upcycled clothing.
3. Sell products like fashion lines
Oatly will connect its oat-products to consumer benefits by naming the lines after the benefits of consuming oat.
- the Anti-oxident S/S 2022 Line.
- the Low Cholesterol Resort Line Winter 2022.
- the Beta Glucan S/S 23 line.
What’s Beta Glucan you ask? It’s a soluble fiber found in oats that forms a thick, gel-like solution in your gut, and has benefits including reduced cholesterol, reduced blood sugar, increased fullness, increased good bacteria…
As a joke, all the new lines will be the same lineup of Oatly oat products. But they will create a platform to educate customers on the magical (and never-ending) properties of oats. Display ads, in-store promotions, and social media content can all translate awareness into Oat demand.
4. Add new flavors with ‘drops’
Oatly can lean into the fashion strategy of launching new products with limited edition ‘drops’ of new flavors — cookies and oat-cream ice cream, anyone?
A countdown-focused website will hint of scarcity via limited edition and first come first serve messaging. Upon launch, Oatly will reveal that limited edition that is in fact not limited at all (because oats grow back! magic!).
5. Merch collabs
Oatly is no stranger to creating fashion merchandise with its taglines. But this time, Oatly will partner with popular brands to co-create new House of Oat lines and play off their media coverage. House of Oat x Allbirds is a sustainable fashion match made in heaven.
6. The G.Oat owned content
Oatly’s latest content centers the Norm&Al show, a “show designed to help society make the switch to plant-based eating using puppets.”
Except the show is heavily milk-focused. And it’s kind of boring. I don’t want to be bullied into being plant-based (even with puppets).
Instead, Oatly will lean into the slang term ‘G.O.A.T.’ (goat = greatest of all time). G.O.A.T. is often attributed to highly successful athletes as a way to commemorate their accomplishments.
Oatly will produce a show about the G.OAT (The Great Oat!).
This show will be positive and fun, partnering with influencers and real people doing awesome things (content I would like to see) and awarding them the G.OAT award. Oatly already publishes positive stories on its Instagram, and this content gets high engagement. Oatly simply needs to translate this goodwill towards the all-mighty oat. 💪🌾
People like Oatly. Correction: people love Oatly. Few brands have been able to accomplish that. But when you say ‘Oatly’, chances are people imagine a carton of alternative milk. According to Grandview Research, the oat milk market will reach $6.45 billion in 2028. That’s big. But not $12Bn company big. And Oatly is no longer the only oat-milk producer on the block.
To continue its growth, Oatly needs to take a share of the larger plant-based food and drink market, and turn that into the Oat market. They don’t necessarily need to make themselves into a fashion house. But a brand-strategy shift from ‘anti-milk’ to ‘pro-oat’ would put them on the right path.