How do you turn people who have absolutely no knowledge of a product into enthusiastic fans?
It’s the marketing question of a lifetime – and by no means can we tell you that this is a one-size-fits-all model. Some brands are successful one way and others need the opposite.
For example, Warby Parker used paid ads and influencer marketing to skyrocket their direct-to-consumer eyewear. Most brands believe this is the only way to get their fame in the digital age.
But we will show that It’s done is not the case. The creative brainstorming related to understanding how to deliver the perfect first experience is how a brand can achieve global success.
It all starts with oats and the massive increase in demand for plant-based milk. The next time you have coffee at your local cafe, ask them what plant-based milk options they have. When they say oat milk, you will remember this story.
Oatly, a Swedish company founded in 1994, has spent 20 years trying to get its oat milk into the plant-based dairy industry. But they continued to run into a big problem: getting people to to choose oat milk on grocery store shelves when they didn’t even know oats could be milked.
So Oatly got back to basics.
How could they create a great first experience with their product that would turn strangers into customers and eventually enthusiastic fans?
Understanding your customer avatar (s)
Instead of pushing ad after ad and hoping people would get more familiar with the concept of oat milk, Oatly took to the drawing board. How could they create such an experience for the first time with Oatly that when people saw it in store, they would want to buy it?
Oat milk is a great addition to coffee in place of cow’s milk. Rolling in a cart of plant-based lactose-free milk Oatly knew that the demand for dairy-free milk was only gaining ground in the United States. They decided to enter the American market through the back door … artisanal cafes.
Oatly’s customer avatar is willing to pay more to avoid traditional dairy milk. But they do not know how much they would prefer oat milk in their morning latte over almond milk or soy milk.
Who could convince Oatly’s ideal customer avatar that he would like oat milk instead of other milk substitutes?
Their local barista.
Other plant-based dairy companies had forgotten the middleman between their milk substitute and their customers: the people who make their coffee. That’s when the avatars of Oatly’s customers doubled. Yes, they were targeting the plant-based milk lovers, but they also had to make the baristas like them too.
Oatly created a Barista blend specifically for small coffees that was thicker than other plant-based milks, making it the best non-dairy option for baristas trying to draw those cool designs into cappuccinos. It gave the same experience as frothing whole milk – which made baristas more than happy to promote it as a great option for their curious customers.
Think about it, have you ever gone to a cafe and wondered what their milk options are after ordering your coffee?
This is not a crazy question to ask. Now what if your barista says we have almonds, soybeans, and oats. You say, “Uh… I’m not sure; what is the best? And your barista says, “Oat milk works great because it’s thicker and looks more like regular milk.”
You have just become an Oatly consumer. You have now tried oat milk and because it was made by your local artisanal cafe you had a great experience. Your latte has been brewed to perfection and you are more than happy to get the exact same tomorrow.
And so, a new plant-based milk option was on the rise.
Go where your customers are already
Oatly didn’t try to jump into Starbucks right away. They went the other way around and searched for the coffee lovers’ favorite coffees. The first cafe to have Oatly’s infamous Barista Blend was Intelligentsia in 2016 – a trendy coffee shop.
A year later, Oatly was successful enough to expand to other cafes, and by the end of 2017, you could find the Barista Blend in 650 cafes in America.
Oatly’s rise to power can be attributed specifically to their knowledge of their client. They knew what would make a good first impression, and they knew where they needed to be to stand a chance.
Using the beloved aesthetic of small cafes, Oatly didn’t come onto the ground as a dominant brand – they emerged as an exciting new option for your morning cappuccino.
Well, excited could be an understatement. In 2018, 2 years after their introduction to the US market, oat milk sales reached $ 6 million. A year later, they were at $ 40 million.
The demand for oat milk was so huge that 2018 is infamous in the barista world for having to squeeze every last drop from every packet of Oatly Barista Blend. None of this could be wasted because there was too much demand and not enough product.
There was so much demand that 12 packs of Oatly, which normally sold for $ 50, could be found on Amazon for over $ 200.
It’s a traditional marketing success.
Oatly goes digital
Oatly will remain one of the most successful traditional marketing strategies in the digital age, but that doesn’t mean they never intended to stay traditional. Oatly now has an online presence and has honed their customer avatars through their brand voice and design.
Again, they show us how well they know their customer’s avatar and aren’t afraid to go against the traditional digital marketing styles of other plant-based milks. Check-out their Instagram caption for an idea of the voice of their brand:
And they even have an Instagram account dedicated to Oatly Baristas where they highlight the baristas. What other plant-based dairy company focuses on the consumer and the barista?
After studying the rise of Oatly, all we can think of is how they’ve built such a solid understanding of their customer’s avatar and the experience they have with their brand. It’s marketing magic, and we are there for that.
If you want to get to know your avatar customer, just like Oatly does, you can start by knowing everything from their values and goals to the podcasts they have in their queue using the Customer avatar worksheet.
Okay, it’s time to treat yourself to a good oat milk cappuccino. This one is for Oatly.
Kudos to your oats success. ☕️