Grab your phone and an oat drink latte: Here’s how Oatly wows fans on TikTok
May 23, 20238 min read
“If there’s one platform where a brand is allowed to really act out and bring its weirdest self, it’s on TikTok,” says Oatly Social Content Planning Lead Anni Tjebbes. “So for us, it was a media match made in heaven.”
Oatly is a global powerhouse in the plant-based food industry, known for its exceptional oat drink products and — since Fall 2022 — for its quirky (and viral) TikTok videos. That’s when the brand leapt onto the world’s leading destination for short-form mobile videos and, within a month, posted a video that was viewed more than 193 million times and liked more than 80 million times.
According to Tjebbes, there had been plenty of enthusiasm to join TikTok prior to last fall — the plant-based brand was already successful on Instagram, X, formerly Twitter, and LinkedIn. But as a brand, Oatly does not jump on bandwagons. It does not follow trends. The Oatly team wanted to be sure they knew who they were and how they were going to show up on such a trend-sensitive platform.
“We needed to stay true to Oatly and what Oatly stands for,” explains Oatly Paid Social & Digital Media Lead Catalina Östrell. “We wouldn’t go into the platform and just follow what everyone else does.”
And no one would expect them to either. Oatly is a brand that sets itself apart through its unconventional advertising tactics and bold, humorous branding. The company is renowned for guerrilla marketing and a willingness to take risks in marketing campaigns. If Oatly was going to take the leap to TikTok, it would do so in its own unique way. And as a customer since early 2022, it would do so hand-in-hand with Sprinklr, an official TikTok Marketing Partner, and Oatly’s media agency, PHD.
Launching its TikTok presence with a clear objective
When Oatly posted its first ever TikTok video in October 2022, in just over 20 seconds viewers knew exactly what they could expect from Oatly TikToks. This first video — and all that have followed since — are the result of very thoughtful planning at Oatly. It was a process that included multiple teams across the organization, including social, creative, media, and PR, coming together to hammer out the details. “We saw the shift in social media that indicated we definitely needed to be on the platform,” says Östrell. “But we weren't just going to start on TikTok just because we wanted to. We needed to ask ourselves, ‘Who is Oatly on TikTok, and how do we stay true to ourselves? How do we adapt to the platform without losing our identity? What makes Oatly Oatly?’”
Interestingly, Östrell and Tjebbes can’t precisely answer that question, but they say their team knows what Oatly is when they see it. “At our core, we are founded in creativity,” says Tjebbes. “There isn’t a playbook or a brand book. When you see the content, you just need to feel, ‘This is us. This is something that we stand for.”
“It's not something that you could put words to. It's just that everybody internally knows it's Oatly — or it's not,” adds Tjebbes.
The team landed on a plan and launched.
Oatly goes viral
Meticulous planning by the Oatly team quickly paid off. Just a month after their TikTok launch, Oatly went viral with a video that was nearly two minutes long. The morning routine no one asked for got an initial 100 million views — then racked up 114 million more following paid boost. The collaborative video features a content creator named Joseph, who goes through his morning routine with the assistance of a machine that slaps him awake, uses Oatly products to make his breakfast, coffee, and smoothie, then feeds them to him (with a fun little twist at the end).
Sourcing content: The art of teamwork and collaboration
One of the most important things for the team is to make sure they stay true to the Oatly brand on a platform that is all about trends. “Other companies go on TikTok, and then they try to act like the cool kids do on TikTok, and that was a big no-no for us,” says Östrell. Instead, the highly-collaborative social media team sources ideas for creative from across the company and from other TikTok creators. For them, videos that resonate with Oatly’s target audience and drive brand awareness and engagement — not followers — is the priority.
“A user could have 70 followers, but it could be a perfect partnership because their content fits with the Oatly look and feel,” says Tjebbes.
One of her favorite partnership collaboration thus far is the Work hard to play hard nail art video. In it, a narrator explains that, as an adult, he now has his own money to buy whatever he wants — including, presumably, several dollhouse-size half gallons of chocolate oat drink, which are displayed in a tiny refrigerator attached as art to someone’s thumb nail.
The brand also successfully brought its Wow, No Cow campaign to TikTok. In response to a “post the video that made you go viral” prompt, Oatly shared its 2021 Super Bowl ad — a video in which Oatly CEO Toni Petersson stands in a field of oats singing “Wow, No Cow” over and over as he bangs on a keyboard. While millions of Super Bowl fans may have already seen the video, by posting the ad to TikTok, Oatly could potentially reach millions more Gen Z and Millennial consumers who may not have been aware of the brand.
Measuring success with engagement not followers
Oatly has more than 600,000 followers on TikTok, but the Oatly team says that while having a large number of followers can be important, it doesn’t guarantee that those followers are interested or engaged in their content.
“What does a follower mean?” asks Östrell. “Is it people who just thought that the video was fun, but don't care about Oatly?” She says engagement and brand love is a better measure of the effectiveness of the Oatly team’s marketing efforts on the TikTok. Higher levels of engagement and average watch rate indicate that the content is resonating with the audience and driving interest in the brand. That’s why, Ostrell says, it’s more important to look at individual video stats.
“What's the relevancy, and do users find the content fun or interesting? I'd say it’s a big success when people like our content and engage with it in some way.”
Also, since TikTok’s algorithm prioritizes engagement when determining which content to show to users, the more engagement Oatly’s videos receive, the more likely they are to be shown to a wider audience. This can lead to increased visibility and brand awareness, which can ultimately lead to more conversions and sales, even though it’s not something they measure now or have any plans to.
Planning, executing, and measuring paid ad campaigns with Sprinklr
Since launching on TikTok, the company has expanded its use of the Sprinklr platform to include planning, executing, and analyzing paid advertising campaigns on TikTok and other social channels. The Oatly team sets up ad creatives in the creative library and collaborate with its media agency to prepare campaigns. Because the collaboration happens in-platform on Sprinklr, both teams can easily check in on a campaign’s status. Sprinklr's unified interface helps Oatly create ads across multiple channels in addition to TikTok, including Instagram, Snapchat, X, formerly Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Tagging enables them to assign relevant attributes to campaigns, which enable seamless filtering and reporting. Ad campaign naming conventions are set up in the planning stage to ensure error-free execution.
Sprinklr also enables the Oatly team to analyze campaign performance. Multiple dashboards with customized visuals allow the team to easily read campaign data, compare performance across channels and dive deep into essential factors that impact performance. Sprinklr reporting integrates with Google’s Data & Video 360, enabling the team to analyze data from multiple sources for even deeper insights.
For TikTok, Oatly also uses Sprinklr to streamline the organic boosting process. With the ability to easily view and segregate Spark ads, Oatly is able to boost the right content at the right time. Once the post is boosted, the team uses Sprinklr Paid Reporting to report on its video drop off rate, one of their main KPIs, in order to further understand ad campaign performance. With cross-channel and real-time reporting across social channels, Oatly can seamlessly assess the channel's impact on its social goals in a single view.
Every one of Oatly’s posts is as absurd and as funny as the last. Check out a few more of Oatly’s TikToks below — and stay tuned for many more: