Oatly have a great voice, right? Wrong.

Ok, I admit it. I’ve recently become one of those wankers who asks for oat milk in cafes. And it’s not even for health reasons, or to nobly play my part in saving the planet. It’s solely because it makes my hot chocolate delectably creamy.

It really irks me to order it though. Edgy contrarian I imagine myself to be, I despise jumping on bandwagons, and it does feel like the world’s going slightly mad for oat milk right now.

And Oatly in particular are the marketing world’s current darling. My every scroll sees me colliding with a post sharing one of their ads, a screenshot of various Twitter exchanges, or a picture of their carton copy.

But the thing that’s really pissing me off about that isn’t (only) the bandwagon element. It’s the fact that when everyone shares how hilarious they are and how self-deprecating and how attuned to culture and how controversial, their real success gets lost. And it’s making marketers aim for the wrong things.

Because, as it happens, I actually do think Oatly’s voice is great. It’s just not great for the reasons most commentators on social media say it is.

It’s not great because it’s funny, or contentious, or zeitgeisty, or self-aware. It’s great because it captures both the heart of the brand and the attention of the audience. In other words it's great because it makes an effective connection.

And that’s what other brands should be emulating – their ambition, not their style.

Because making people laugh isn’t always the answer. Creating controversy isn’t always the answer. But connecting with people? That's a win every time.

So if what it takes for you to connect with your audience is to talk to people in a quiet, formal way, then do that. If it means actually using quite a bit of jargon, fine. If it requires keeping things simple and steering clear of sounding too familiar, that's ok. And, equally, if it takes humour or shock-value then great, use those things.

Just don’t do it for the sake of it. Don’t do it because you see it working for other brands. Don’t do it because it’s what gets talked about on social media.

You’ll never have a truly great voice if you’re aiming for the wrong goal. It’s got to be about knowing who you are, knowing who your audience is, and knowing exactly how to use language to connect the two.

So don’t get distracted by how marketers talk about the Oatly’s of the world. Don’t let a desire for notoriety or edginess set your course. Don’t aspire to be cool. To be quirky. To be witty. To be lauded.

Aspire to be effective.

It might not sound as sexy. But it’s a hell of a lot more relevant.

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