Oatly Natural Products Expo West Sampling

Q&A: 10 Minutes with Erin Taylor of Oatly

Erin Taylor, Manager-U.S. Experiential, Oatly

Oatly, true to how we do things, is completely opposite, says Erin Taylor, the brand’s manager for experiential in the U.S., about the 20-by-40-foot Oatly’s Café at the recent Natural Products Expo West. Instead of walking right in, attendees were invited to round the corner of the branded wall to experience the oat drink brand’s new creamers in coffee, smoothies, and milkshakes. And they did in droves (Exhibit Partner: Star).

The busy showfloor can be exhausting, but at the same time gives her so much energy, Taylor says, serving samples and making sure that every aspect of the brand’s largest annual trade show activation runs smoothly. She started in mobile tours with Chobani more than 12 years ago, driving an F-350 with a 26-foot trailer around the country, and learned from the ground up everything from negotiating contracts to developing event partnerships and executing programs. Now, overseeing Oatly’s experiential marketing for the U.S., she still loves bringing crazy ideas and concepts to life.

EM caught up with Taylor at Expo West over espresso martini soft serve for trade show insight and life-on-the-road tips. 


Event Marketer: What’s something you wish you knew about managing trade show programs when you first started?

Erin Taylor: How much hard work it is and what it takes to execute. The show doesn’t even start until Thursday, but we’ve been here since Tuesday and the crew was here on Sunday. Also, to rely on those around you to succeed. In the beginning, there’s a sense that you need to be doing everything yourself and figuring it out on your own, but you can’t be successful unless you lean on the team around you. We all bring such different passions and points of view and we know the industry so well, and so I lean on our team on an hourly basis. We all have to work together to do it. 


What is your biggest challenge in executing at trade shows? 

Whenever you have a trade show space, it’s challenging because you’re held to, essentially, your box. How do you fit all the ideation and creation to tell your brand’s story within that? For me, the biggest challenge is modularity and trying to be as efficient with your materials as possible. At Oatly, sustainability is a big part of our mission. We don’t want to produce waste. In the design brief, we asked to be able to configure [the larger build] for smaller spaces. Materials are also a big component. We use a beMatrix structure and we try our best to rent or even borrow assets from friends and neighbors. 


Anything you’re seeing in trade show activations that you’re excited about?

I think people are back to creating experiences, not just selling. I love Expo West because you see the connectivity between the brand and the consumer. People are having more experiences and having conversations, and it’s not so much just sampling and placing as much product in hands as possible. We’ve transitioned from a small booth giving away a lot of coffee to taking time to slow down and connect on a one-on-one basis, and you’ll see a lot more thoughtful seating areas and meeting spaces to have those conversations [in our spaces].


Are you tapping into AI?

It might come up over time, but a lot of what we do at Oatly is intentionally a bit retro and simplistic. We still do things old-school. 


What is your life hack for thriving on the road?

Take care of your body; take care of your mental state. Every time I go to my hotel, I put my feet in the hottest water I can possibly stand, massage them with lotion, and put on socks. I heat up a hotel hand towel in the microwave and drape it over my shoulders. I rub Tiger Balm on my achy muscles. Sleep is also very important, especially when changing time zones. And also, smiling. If I’m not feeling 100 percent, just smiling at someone gives me energy. 


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