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This article was published on February 3, 2023

How to market… without a marketing department

John Schoolcraft explains why Oatly killed its marketing department


Ioanna Lykiardopoulou
Story by

Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

Ioanna is a writer at TNW. She covers the full spectrum of the European tech ecosystem, with a particular interest in startups, sustainabili Ioanna is a writer at TNW. She covers the full spectrum of the European tech ecosystem, with a particular interest in startups, sustainability, green tech, AI, and EU policy. With a background in the humanities, she has a soft spot for social impact-enabling technologies.

How do you set your company apart from other brands? How do you sell people a product they’re not used to? And how is all that possible without a marketing department?

John Schoolcraft, Chief Creative Officer at Oatly, has an answer to all these questions. In 2012, together with CEO Toni Petersson, Schoolcraft began to transform a 30-year-old maker of oat drinks into a worldwide movement devoted to promoting a more sustainable lifestyle.

We caught up with Schoolcraft at TNW 2022 and learned how Oatly created a thriving marketing strategy… without a marketing department. If you’d like to get his insights in full, check out the video embedded at the top of this article. Alternatively, you can watch it here.

Throughout the talk, Schoolcraft explains how marketing is different at Oatly compared to other companies. And it all started with his idea to kill the marketing department and replace it with a team of creatives.

“It’s a completely different system,” he told us. Although a creative still focuses on advertising, content creation, and communication, their approach is unlike a marketer’s. In Schoolcraft’s words, marketers are “approvers” and creatives “makers.”

When we moved on to discussing the problems with marketing, he pointed out the marketing department’s focus on data. “What they don’t realise is that all brands are pulling from the same data, which means that they’re doing the same thing,” he explained. “In contrast,” he continued, “creatives are by nature embedded in culture and they find inspiration somewhere else.”

This doesn’t mean that Schoolcraft advises every company to destroy its marketing department. But he does believe that smaller firms should prioritise finding people who can actually create the brand, instead of merely interpret data.

Head over here to watch the video.

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