Oatly's Creative Director: Let The Lunatics Run The Asylum

30 Apr, 2021

Oatly’s Creative Director, Michael Lee, discusses thinking differently about marketing, the organisation of a marketing department, and letting the lunatics run the asylum.

An American in Scandinavia, Michael switched to advertising after starting work in investment banking. He joined Oatly three years ago and finds his best ideas come to him while he’s riding his bike to work in Copenhagen.

Oatly are well-known as a disruptive brand when it comes to their marketing and their support of various activism initiatives. This is what sets them apart, in line with Michael’s advice: “Don’t try to sell anything, just be interesting.” Being interesting means following your instincts and supporting the right causes for you, doing things a little more “out-of-the-box” and always trying to push the envelope

Michael’s Shiny New Object, therefore, is “inmates running the asylum” – referring to his own marketing team, or the Department for Mind Control. From their quirky name to their full creative freedom, the Oatly marketers are different because they design their own strategy, create and execute their own briefs, and produce and approve their own work. The only veto belongs to the CEO.

The result of this approach is an irresistible draw towards creating new and interesting products, campaigns and initiatives. It’s what makes people talk about Oatly: “Progress is often contentious and it’s often noisy,” as Michael says.

Having an autonomous team that succeeds in this way is contingent on strong bonds between its members and a high level of trust. But, before anything else, it begins with management who believes in this approach.

To find out more about Michael’s advice to new starters in marketing, how to be more disruptive and his best marketing tips, listen to the podcast here.

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