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Oat Milk’s Journey to Your Coffee Cup
One cream, two sugars. No sugar and a splash of soy. Black as midnight on a moonless night.
When it comes to consumer habits, few things are more ingrained than the way we take our coffee.
So when the Swedish company Oatly wanted to get US coffee drinkers to make the switch to oat milk, it needed a smart marketing strategy.
A traditional product expansion strategy would center on customer samples – lots and lots of paper cups at grocery stores in target markets.
Oatly focused on a different audience.
Oatly’s Marketing Strategy
Instead of focusing on the people buying the coffee, it focused on the people making it.
Oatly created a “barista edition” oat milk and hired baristas to go coffee-shop-to-coffee-shop offering free cartons.
As baristas shared recipes and ideas, coffee shops started offering oat milk drinks on their menus, and customers started requesting it. Then they started buying it in grocery stores.
The campaign paid off. Oat milk sales rose more than 400% in 2018, and today it’s second only to almond milk in the nondairy alternative space. Its popularity has surged in the pandemic. As the ultimate proof of its mainstream acceptance, Starbucks announced it would start offering oat milk at locations nationwide this spring.
Sell to the People Your Customers Want to Buy From
Oatly’s caffeine-induced influencer program took a page out of Lululemon’s book. The clothing company broke into the athleisure wear segment by offering free leggings to yoga instructors.
But the brand ambassador strategy isn’t limited to trendy coffee shops and yoga studios. Even B2B audiences have influencers they depend on to stay on top of new trends and define their preferences.