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Changing the World through Consumption : The Contradictions of Political Engagement in the Case of Oatly

Mccrow-Young, Alexandra LU (2016) MKVM13 20161
Media and Communication Studies
Department of Communication and Media
Abstract
In 2014, Swedish oat milk producer Oatly was sued by the dairy lobby LRF Mjölk for their use of marketing slogans such as “It’s like milk, but made for humans” which the dairy lobby claimed painted cow’s milk negatively. Dubbed the “milk wars”, the dispute sparked an intense debate over the political and environmental impacts of dairy production up until and beyond the court’s decision in November 2015. Although Oatly lost the lawsuit, the company’s sales skyrocketed and a passionate supporter base was revealed. These supporters wrote opinion articles, started Twitter campaigns and created fan pages on social media in defence of Oatly. This widespread reaction illustrates a shifting, unconventional kind of political engagement through... (More)
In 2014, Swedish oat milk producer Oatly was sued by the dairy lobby LRF Mjölk for their use of marketing slogans such as “It’s like milk, but made for humans” which the dairy lobby claimed painted cow’s milk negatively. Dubbed the “milk wars”, the dispute sparked an intense debate over the political and environmental impacts of dairy production up until and beyond the court’s decision in November 2015. Although Oatly lost the lawsuit, the company’s sales skyrocketed and a passionate supporter base was revealed. These supporters wrote opinion articles, started Twitter campaigns and created fan pages on social media in defence of Oatly. This widespread reaction illustrates a shifting, unconventional kind of political engagement through commodity activism, facilitated by digital media.
This is an individual political engagement that evolves from the growing global concerns over the environmental impact of food production and consumption, and yet is inextricably linked with commodity culture, raising questions over the validity of this kind of political engagement for both individual and collective action. Recent research has begun to examine commodity activism as a way of doing politics within brand culture, aligning individual purchasing habits with political and social change. These analyses largely focus on the US context and little research has been dedicated to the emerging consumer demand for sustainable food products as a form of political engagement in the Swedish context. Existing research has also tended to focus on consumption as political engagement as an isolated practice, therefore this thesis analyses dynamic, multi-site political engagement across both online and offline spaces.
Through in-depth interviews with both Oatly consumers and employees, this thesis explores political engagement that is located within a corporate environment. It addresses the multiple spaces where this engagement occurs to analyse the complexity of online and offline commodity activism. The findings show that the relationship between Oatly and their consumers is characterised by a push-and-pull tension between corporate interests and individual action. Consumer activity negotiates top-down power from Oatly through a creative and diverse fusion of online and offline engagement, connecting micro individual participation to the macro political community. Consumer labour moves away from binary conceptions of exploiter versus exploited, illustrating the duality of political engagement, where individual participation and emotion operate simultaneously as brand work for Oatly and as a way to enhance personal engagement with the vegan, animal rights and environmental causes. (Less)
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author
Mccrow-Young, Alexandra LU
supervisor
organization
course
MKVM13 20161
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
commodity activism, political engagement, online activism, political consumption, Oatly, Sweden, vegan movement, environmental movement
language
English
id
8872536
date added to LUP
2016-06-23 16:46:04
date last changed
2016-10-19 06:49:58
@misc{8872536,
  abstract     = {In 2014, Swedish oat milk producer Oatly was sued by the dairy lobby LRF Mjölk for their use of marketing slogans such as “It’s like milk, but made for humans” which the dairy lobby claimed painted cow’s milk negatively. Dubbed the “milk wars”, the dispute sparked an intense debate over the political and environmental impacts of dairy production up until and beyond the court’s decision in November 2015. Although Oatly lost the lawsuit, the company’s sales skyrocketed and a passionate supporter base was revealed. These supporters wrote opinion articles, started Twitter campaigns and created fan pages on social media in defence of Oatly. This widespread reaction illustrates a shifting, unconventional kind of political engagement through commodity activism, facilitated by digital media.
This is an individual political engagement that evolves from the growing global concerns over the environmental impact of food production and consumption, and yet is inextricably linked with commodity culture, raising questions over the validity of this kind of political engagement for both individual and collective action. Recent research has begun to examine commodity activism as a way of doing politics within brand culture, aligning individual purchasing habits with political and social change. These analyses largely focus on the US context and little research has been dedicated to the emerging consumer demand for sustainable food products as a form of political engagement in the Swedish context. Existing research has also tended to focus on consumption as political engagement as an isolated practice, therefore this thesis analyses dynamic, multi-site political engagement across both online and offline spaces. 
Through in-depth interviews with both Oatly consumers and employees, this thesis explores political engagement that is located within a corporate environment. It addresses the multiple spaces where this engagement occurs to analyse the complexity of online and offline commodity activism. The findings show that the relationship between Oatly and their consumers is characterised by a push-and-pull tension between corporate interests and individual action. Consumer activity negotiates top-down power from Oatly through a creative and diverse fusion of online and offline engagement, connecting micro individual participation to the macro political community. Consumer labour moves away from binary conceptions of exploiter versus exploited, illustrating the duality of political engagement, where individual participation and emotion operate simultaneously as brand work for Oatly and as a way to enhance personal engagement with the vegan, animal rights and environmental causes.},
  author       = {Mccrow-Young, Alexandra},
  keyword      = {commodity activism,political engagement,online activism,political consumption,Oatly,Sweden,vegan movement,environmental movement},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Changing the World through Consumption : The Contradictions of Political Engagement in the Case of Oatly},
  year         = {2016},
}