Oatly's 2023 Global Email Marketing List Growth Campaign

Oatly's 2023 Global Email Marketing List Growth Campaign

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.

It spanned 7 countries with 4,500 placements in total. This was not a small-scale campaign.

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:

  1. Grow email subscribers > engagement with consumers
  2. Make headlines and grow brand awareness
  3. Something else

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.

Oatly at on the platform in Berlin's U-Bahn

What's the Spam by Oatly email campaign all about?

You can read the Spam by Oatly monthly editions here

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.

Oatly Spam newsletter snippets

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, but in this video, they seem to claim that it generated over 8 billion email subscribers:

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.

Oately Spam 1

Could it have been even better?

You do have to wonder why Oatly 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? Who knows...

What's happened in since they launched the newsletter

Interestingly, they've stopped sending emails now and have even taken down the sign up page on their website. Oatly by their own admission, are not a 'normal' brand, but to spend that much budget on such a huge campaign, then seemingly throw the data away, is certainly not the norm. 

This might well be the most bizarre and perhaps most effective campaign of its kind. Can your brand learn from this and do something inspired by this? Probably, but will you? There aren't many brands that can.

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!

3 ways you can grow your email marketing list

1. QR codes for email sign-up in outdoor ads

Simply apply email sign-up to stores. This is how ECCO do it well and this is what it looks like:


2. Social profile links

Most brands don't utilise organic methods for growing email lists. See this example: 


This is very easy to do and does generate a lot of sign ups for most brands. 

3. Pop-ups by category

Picture this - your a retail brand selling apparel. Adapt all of your pop-overs to be related to the category the website visitor is looking at. So, if they are looking at footwear, have a pop-over that says "get the latest footwear launches and offers, plus all of our other news and exclusive offers, straight to your inbox". 

Simple, but very effective - most of the time, these techniques are just a matter of thinking about what could be one step better than generic. What's the simplest, easiest thing you could do to grow your list today?

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