Brand of the Week: Oatly Norm & Al Show
10 bottles of Oatly sits in my house at any given time. As soon as it hits 5, we’re stocking up again like there’s another pandemic or a storm or an apocalypse. My household loves Oatly so when we spotted an Oatly pop-up at Westfield promoting their new Norm and Al show, we got very excited. Yep, you read that right. They created a new TV show.
What is the Norm and Al campaign about?
This campaign is a five-episode mini series featuring 2 puppets – Norm and Al – aiming to encourage people to switch to plant-based diets. Each episode is 2-5 minutes long mirroring questions and conversations we have around plant-based alternatives. The show itself is meant to be entertaining and educational, and I certainly had lots of fun watching it!
You can watch the Norm and Al show here: https://www.oatly.com/en-gb/normandal
What are the values of this campaign?
This campaign although an ad, feels different to other ads. The format, storytelling, characters and conversations enables us to speak about this campaign as if it were a TV show. Using stop-motion rather than humans was also an imaginative solution to one of their barriers. The message around plant-based diets is something people may normally roll their eyes about but because it’s in the form of a TV show and with puppets, rather than actual human beings, the hope is that more people will engage. The production itself also requires creativity – the characters, the set and the props all look thoughtfully designed. Even if you don’t enjoy the show, the visuals are a pretty sight.
One of the goals for this campaign is to send a message around plant-based diets’ lighter impact on the environment. Although a serious message, Oatly does it in a fun, playful, and entertaining way by using a TV series format and incorporating music, jokes, singing and dancing in each episode. This links back to the challenge they had of people rolling their eyes about plant-based diets – it seems they have learned that preaching doesn’t work and it’s more effective to have a light-hearted approach.
It’s no surprise that the message of protecting the environment features in the series. The company offers plant-based products after all and environmentalism is a core belief of theirs. Saving the planet is the focus of the first episode but this message also gets referenced in the other episodes too.
However, some have questioned Oatly’s commitment to Universalism. In 2020, Blackstone invested $200 million into Oatly. This relationship faced controversy as Blackstone’s co-founder and CEO Stephen Schwarzman is a supporter of Donald Trump (who is known to be a climate change rejector). Oatly has defended this backlash by stating that Blackstone is ‘like the biggest supermarket of the private equity sector’ and by winning them over, they are encouraging other private equity firms to invest more in plant-based brands. This in turn will help them create a more sustainable world. Their defence is written in full here: https://www.oatly.com/communication/climate-and-capital. As someone who believes we should protect our planet, I wasn’t ecstatic about this news but I also see strength in their argument.
Leaving the Blackstone controversy aside, protecting the planet is a core belief of Oatly’s. They’re passionate but not pushy. The Norm and Al show has an open and forgiving tone – they aren’t trying to force a plant-based diet on people. Rather they are encouraging people to explore this option or go plant-based once in a while.
While a forgiveness features in this campaign, it doesn’t so much in real life. In 2021, Oatly, an international brand with significant backing brought a lawsuit against PureOaty, a family-run farm company. This feels unkind for the big guy to be going after the little guy. They claimed PureOaty’s packaging is too similar to their own and wanted the small company to change their design however a judge dismissed this case (rightfully! The designs are not even remotely similar…have a look yourself). If saving the planet through plant-based diet is as important to them as Oatly says, they should be encouraging and be supportive of vegan brands, whether big or small.
Oatly is a staple in my household and we put Oatly in almost everything – porridge, mash potato, creamy pasta…it’s DELICIOUS but several controversies have left a sour taste in my mouth. I won’t stop using them just yet but their contradicting values are definitely on my mind when enjoying my cuppa.
Thanks for reading!