Yasna.ai - our AI platform for in-depth interviews

How to Utilize Agile MRX: Research Tactics for Expanding Brands like Oatly

Anna Kupriyanova
The alternative milk market is heating up.
Although it's still small in comparison with the dairy milk market, the competition is intensifying. Plant-based milk is attracting consumer attention on both sides of the pond, and oat milk is at the forefront of this race largely thanks to Oatly that produces alternatives to dairy products from oats. Brands like Oatly are trying to stand out, and to nurture their audience.
Oatly is driving oat milk growth in Sweden, UK, Germany and the US - The brandgym
We did our own research into the attitude towards dairy vs non-dairy milk, focusing on the UK market, and asked our target audience a few questions. Let's dive in.

Target: United Kingdom, male, female, from 18 to 65 years, 200 respondents sample size
Research solution: Fastuna DIY — online survey tool with access to respondents from 45+ markets.

Alternative milk still has a way to go in its battle with dairy products

Dairy-free and cow milk consumption in the UK. N=200
45% of the respondents have never tried alternative milk.
This translates into a growth potential for brands like Oatly, who aim to convert milk drinkers into dairy-free milk drinkers or win over those who have never tried alternative milk in the first place. Right, so among those who have already been introduced to the world of non-dairy, what types of milk do they prefer? Our initial guess was coconut and we were surprised to see that…
Top three types of dairy-free milk consumed most often are: almond, oat and soy. N=109, dairy-free milk consumers.
Our respondents choose almond (58%), oat (52%) and soy milk (39%), with coconut milk lagging behind at 29%. Now that we have our top three, let's see why people choose dairy-free milk over cow milk.
N=109, dairy-free milk consumers.
Respondents highlighted health reasons, lactose intolerance, perception of alternative milk as "more natural/organic", taste preferences and environmental concerns as most relevant to them. Interestingly, avoiding animal products for ethical reasons scored among the lowest of the reasons.
Use Fastuna DIY to learn more about your consumers. We limited this solution to 15 questions on purpose, so you can focus on what's most important. Book a call to get a free consultation.

Alpro, Oatly and Innocent are the most popular dairy-free brands in the UK

Now to the juicy part. The questions any brand is asking their marketing team: What is our brand awareness like? Do people even know we exist? And what other brands do consumers turn to?
N=200, all.
Within our sample of 200 people, 77% of people knew Alpro, 51% knew Oatly and 43% - innocent. But knowing is one thing, we are curious about actual consumption.
N=188, know at least one brand from the list.
People drink what they know, but! 23% of people who are aware of the alternative milk brands don't drink dairy-free milk at all. Statistics paint a promising picture. There is a crowd of cow milk drinkers to win over and competitor brands to outperform. But what would it take to convince your potential audience to ditch cow and go oat, and to stand out among the competition? Oatly, for example, is creating a wide range of products to satisfy any consumer need.
Types of products by Oatly available on Amazon.co.uk

Attention is not intention: provocative marketing doesn't guarantee desire to buy

To distinguish itself from other alternative milk brands, and to switch people from consumption of dairy products, Oatly has doubled-down on marketing campaigns that are fresh and provocative. They stand out and have a unique tone-of-voice with recognisable copywriting and visual style (spam newsletter campaign). They evoke buzz in social media and even spark debate (reddit campaign backlash).
In order to grow their market share, Oatly is playing on different markets, both geographical and categorical. Let's take a look at their US billboard campaign, followed by a video ad they launched in the UK.
We tested the audience response to each of these campaigns to see if people got the message, how they perceived the brand, and whether these ads drove people to switch from other brands and dairy products.

Target: United Kingdom and USA, male, female, from 18 to 65 years, 100 respondents sample size per video/image.
Research solutions: Fastuna Video and Visual Test — ready-to-use research solutions for validation of marketing ideas (online survey).
"Spam" ad campaign in USA. Source: Oatly LinkedIn
Respondents found the billboard eye-catching and unique.
Colours are bright and grabbing. I don't think links on billboards in that design will work very often because it is seen at quick glances but it grabs attention for sure. — Male, 23
I thought it was funny, and the design was appealing. — Female, 18
Evaluation of the Oatly billboard visual in the US — fastuna.com
According to the survey results, this banner sparked a desire to switch to alternative milk (62%).
Conversely, the UK ad did not perform as well.
Use Fastuna Visual and Video Tests at every stage of ad development. Increase the potential of your advertising campaign with every iteration. Book a call to learn more.
Similarly to the billboard, the video ad was seen as unique, however in this case the respondents felt it was irrelevant, questioned whether it was funny and doubted the messaging in the video.
I like the way the ad was set up suggesting that cows milk is somehow a form of contraband in the early 21st Century and its purchase and use needs to be stopped. I get the humour but the point of the ad is irritating. — Male, 56
I don't like being told what milk we should be using and shamed. This makes me feel angry against Oatly. — Female, 32
Evaluation of the Oatly video in the UK — fastuna.com
The metrics above show a mixed bag of results. The low levels of interest and relevance translate into the low desire to switch to alternative milk. The video doesn't achieve what it wants to achieve - getting consumers to the oat milk side. Only 27% of respondents said they'd consider switching.

What can a brand do to keep afloat in the ocean of competition?

Oatly isn't only running provocative ads. They are educating and "bringing up" their younger consumers by pioneering the inclusion of plant-based drinks in the EU School Scheme. The brand is willing to make a big shift in the consumers' minds to replace dairy with non-dairy products, so that the latter eventually become the new normal, ensuring future sales.
Are the above marketing tactics effective? Agile market research is a tried-and-true way to determine that.
Fastuna insight platform is a tool that can help you get up close and personal with your consumer. It provides a seamless process, allowing you to compare markets, detect areas for improvement in marketing communication, and test often for best results. Test the waters before you jump!
Innovate with confidence
Validate product and marketing decisions with real people in 24h using our hassle-free testing tool