Oatly's 2023 Global Email Marketing List Growth Campaign
Written by Philip Storey
2 Minute Read
In early 2023, Oatly launched 'Spam', a global email marketing growth campaign. The campaign was driven by a global billboard campaign in some of the most iconic cities and locations, including New York's Times Square, London's Euston Station & Berlin's S-Bahn/U-Bahn.
On the way to an internal Enchant get together in Berlin, I happened up the campaign at Alexanderplatz station. On almost every platform, along the entire platform, Oatly had taken over.
Oatly have never been afraid to ditch traditional marketing methods to challenge the status quo. And this campaign was certainly no different. By adopting a human-centric approach in its marketing and embracing the same tone of voice regardless of the audience, Oatly has retained its edge while transitioning from a small start-up, into the huge global brand it is today.
However, that still doesn't explain why Oatly pumped so much time and budget into advertising a newsletter that doesn't even directly market any of their products.
Here's what it looked like:
NYC Times Square photo credit: Mario Ramirez Reyes on Twitter
Why did Oatly invest so heavily into email?
Major brands have used paid social to grow email lists in the past, but we've arguably never seen a campaign of this scale, in outdoor and billboard advertising.
So next, we need to look at the goal. Is it:
Grow email subscribers > engagement with consumers
Make headlines and grow brand awareness
My bet, is that this is primarily nothing to do with gaining email subscribers, although in their last newsletter Oatly stated that they have over 1 billion subscribers, which is clearly a joke.
So, I think this is primarily about brand awareness, but it is about email and it is about list growth - secondary to brand awareness.
How much did it cost?
This is a multi-million dollar/pound/euro campaign and is without any doubt an eight-figure investment for the brand. That's some punt. And who knows if it paid off for them. I imagine they have a hunch or some insights to tell them either way, but that's a massive investment.
What's the Spam by Oatly email campaign all about?
Every month they make in-jokes about personalisation and other email marketing quips - it's quite amusing to us email geeks, but I'm not sure how much traction it has with the rest of us.
It's such a weird concept, this whole campaign - but we love it. And it must be doing something for Oatly, otherwise they'd probably have abandoned it.
What impact did the campaign have?
People all over the world saw the campaign. That's millions of people in many cities. Who knows how many subscribers they got from it
They now send a monthly newsletter to these subscribers. And in today's inbox, you have to wonder if that's enough. Will people remember signing up? Will they care? It's proven time and time again, that sending twice-weekly, weekly or even fortnightly = higher engagement. So Oatly have their work cut out to retain attention, when sending so little email.
Could it have been even better?
You do wonder why they didn't think about QR and include that in the creative, instead of a URL. It would have certainly made it easier for people to quickly scan and sign up. And that surely would have lead to more subscribers.
But was the effectiveness of this campaign really about email sign-ups after all?
What can smaller brands learn from this?
From a brand perspective, smaller brands could play a lot bigger if they adopt the mindset of Oatly and try something completely different. Think about where you would take your brand if you were Oatly's marketing department. What would the outcome be?
From a list growth perspective, most brands don't think about just how far they can take things. Offline is so rarely looked at for email subscriber acquisition - that's a mistake. Offline could be cheaper than online channels such as paid social. And remember, you can have the best email marketing programme out there, but if you're not growing your list quickly, you're losing.
Go get it!
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