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Pursuing change with Oatly.

20 August 2020
Oatly is a vegan oat drink brand based in Sweden pursuing the plant-based revolution. In this blog, we are going to be talking about how Oatly found its tone of voice and personality and how other brands can find theirs, with insight from creative director Michale Lee. 
Oatly was founded back in the 1990s and is based on Swedish research from Lund University. The company’s patented enzyme technology copies nature’s own process and turns fibre rich oats into nutritional liquid food that is perfectly designed for humans. Notorious for their fun-loving, energetic and off the wall creativity Oatly is a perfect example of marketing where absolutely nothing is off the table. 
“Naively courageous, naive fearless. We go out and pick fights with the dairy industry and its the situation where if we have known better we probably wouldn’t have done that but because we are naive we go for it anyway.” 
- Creative Director Michale Lee

Seeking change 

Oatly itself is a unique brand taking inspiration from the culture of southern Sweden, that has resonated worldwide with the future-focused and ‘woke’ generation. What could seem as a ‘boring oat drink’ brand has skyrocketed in success due to its fearless, lack of rules and uniquely human way of working?
Oatly prides itself by doing more than they ever say by spearheading projects such as developing systems to help farmers across Europe transition from animal-based products to agricultural-based products. As well as working towards changing the Government laws in Germany regarding the labelling of eco-friendly products. These kinds of projects are not preached to the masses there is depth to the company. 
“A lot of our voice is our action, action speaks louder than words”
- Creative Director Michale Lee

While many people are familiar with the brand for being cool and quirky it is comforting to know that under the surface a lot of work is being done. Oatly’s sole purpose as a company is to make it easy for people to turn what they eat and drink into personal moments of healthy joy without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources in the process. Today, the Swedish company remains independent and dedicated to upgrading the lives of individuals and the general well being of the planet through a lineup of original oat drinks.

Ditch milk campaign 

Oatly’s creative director Michael Lee said: “Our message to the London Coffee Festival crowd and anyone else who might be interested in the future, is pretty simple — swap cow’s milk for oat drink and save the planet 73% in CO2e… See? Pretty simple. And if people further consider that oat drink tastes and performs pretty great in your coffee or porridge or banana smoothie, without first travelling through the body of a cow, then we’re hoping that Shoreditch and the thousands of Baristas visiting the area might eventually label this call to Ditch Milk a complete no-brainer.”
Throughout the event, Oatly will hand out thousands of free cups of coffee from its Boxpark pop-up, with customers offered exclusive merchandise in return for pledging to go dairy-free for 72 hours.

Tone of voice 

“If we start trying to write guideline it gets old and boring immediately but at the same time how do you scale a brand across 5 million countries?”
- Creative Director Michale Lee

Unlike brands such as innocent Oatley’s approach to copy is a lot less structured where so much of your voice is your brand it is vital that the copy is just right. The best representation of the brand’s copy is there Instagram feed, acting as a library of tone. Part of what makes Oatly so special is that they make the effort to try and make every touchpoint interesting, from a long copy in a newspaper to social posts to wobblers (or 'shelf talkers', little plastic flags with call-to-actions written on)  in stores. Having a seamless brand image brings professionalism to the brand. 

The magic behind Oatly

Oatly’s magic lies in its paradoxes value proposition. The brand bridges the gap between selfishness and altruism. Consumers can achieve personal health benefits and still contribute well to the environment. Surprisingly, Oatly’s ad campaign doesn’t celebrate this momentum at all.
Instead, Oatly uses the ad space for a gigantic hack. It makes fun of all the large corporations that run traditional and stale marketing campaigns. The Swedes break with these rules. By doing so, they position themselves as an independent funny and sympathetic alternative for dairy products. The brand establishes an authentic relationship with the cool kids on the block.
This blog was originally from Podcast-  Talk This Way: Why Oatly’s Approach to Tone of Voice Works. Check out more blogs like this here.