Do you really need to track KPI's? Not according to Oatly

One of my good friends, who happens to be the Global Chief Creative Officer at Oatly, has been responding recently to criticism for their Superbowl commercial. You know, the one where the CEO is sitting in a field with a keyboard singing the Oatly jingle, "Wow, wow, no cow".

Anyway, here's a quick comment he posted about Marketing, KPI's, company culture, etc.

"We don’t spend time or money on tracking campaigns and I have no interest in KPIs. But the marketing director must have KPIs? We don’t have a marketing director. We don’t even have a marketing department. When I joined Oatly in 2012 the first thing I did was remove the middleman—the marketing department. Marketing departments are overrated and lean too heavily on insecurity (hence the need to track campaigns as a proof of doing something right). Instead, we have a creative department where we brief ourselves, create ideas and campaigns, and approve them ourselves. Makers not filters. Counterintuitive to corporate marketing theory, but massively successful, for Oatly. Whether it works for other companies depends on if they can build company culture on collaboration and trust. And work considerably more than most people deem realistic. Which is why there are still marketing departments chasing business acronyms like ROIs and KPIs instead of listening to culture and making something interesting that proves your worth to whoever it is you are looking to prove your worth to. Totally stupid? Maybe. The more people that believe so, the longer Oatly will continue to stick out, and other companies go unnoticed, which is cool by me."

How much do you agree with this marketing philosophy?
  1. Love the idea of NOT tracking KPI's
  2. KPI's all the way
  3. Help, I can't decide!
  1. 1

    This is a big company with a long supply chain, they don't connect with their users directly, they can't attribute sales to champaings because the chain is a vague cloud, also they are on a big growth trajectory which would have a huge noise affect on any numbers data you'd try to gather around it
    so it's not practical for their current product/comapny state...

    1. 1

      That's an interesting observation @hatkyinc.

      So do you think that large companies like Amazon or Walmart or Woolworths or Vegemite don't keep track of KPI's?

      Also, as a reminder, John removed the marketing department in 2012 before they scaled up to being such a bigger player in the industry. Would that change the way you think of tracking or not tracking KPI's?

      Anyway, thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts, how would you answer the poll?

      1. 1

        I'm not sure your examples are hitting the target, they are more coca-cola or a canned food manufacturer
        They are 100% wholesale for retail stores
        They don't operate the sales channels they are on
        They have no access to the end consumer (or their data)
        any data they get is a lagged metric by weeks-months (they have a 6 month+ shelf life, some of the data lag is that or longer)
        very different to what an IH would do

        Context is everything, they have a context that doesn't match "direct-marketing" which is the "common"(around here), measured KPI type of marketing

        If you put ads on newspapers, signage, national or international tv, these don't link to a buy button, there is no action to track
        And if your growth is also on the 30%-90% with a wild weekly variant, what data would you find reliable and relevant, it's all going to be very loosely correlated

        If that's your context, cause you're running a beverage company, sure, skip KPIs, but if you're on a direct sales channel, why wouldn't you track it to know where your losing money and where your profiting?

        (also didn't address financing and money you have to spend on marketing..)

  2. 1

    This is pretty cool, I love the concept here.

    I think one thing that happens when you are a marketer focusing on KPIs is you completely neglect things that aren't measurable, or would pay off only in a few months.

    I used to work at an events app startup. We sent out tons of annoying push notifications. We'd always see a spike in engagement when those went out, obviously. I asked the data science team 'do we know how many people uninstall the app every time we send out these notifications?' They said there was no way to tell. What was actually happening, we found out through customer interviews, was every time we spammed people with push notifications we destroyed a part of our user base and lost engagement.

    Two more examples where this happens:

    • Content marketing. You don't see this yield results straight away, but eventually it can become a crucial channel.
    • Branding. Rarely will anyone tell you your strong brand is why they bought the product. But as a consumer, I know it makes a difference - I buy from strong brands.
    1. 1

      thanks @louisbarclay for adding to the conversation.

      So if you had to take the poll, how would you answer?

      1. 1

        Love the idea of NOT tracking KPIs

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