Nestle’s Toll House brand of cookies and chocolate chips is one of America’s iconic brands. Debuting in 1936 and founded by an actual restaurant, the Toll House Inn, which invented the chocolate chip cookie, it’s been a steady revenue generator for Nestle for decades. That means constant reinvention of the brand—and, in these millennial days, turning to YouTube in order to attract a new generation of customers.
Steadily and quietly, Toll House has been building an empire of YouTube baking shows and partnerships with YouTube cooking partners. According to Nestle’s marketing manager for Toll House, Heather Green, it’s all about attracting an audience of "millennial moms" through mobile-friendly recipe videos. This meant creating their own video series and partnering with popular YouTube cooking show hosts to spread the gospel of delicious chocolate chip cookies through a mixture of marketing strategy and SEO ninjitsu.
Toll House has a two-pronged YouTube strategy centered around an original web series called "Bake My Day," and product partnerships with a number of popular YouTube hosts including Elise Strachan of My Cupcake Addiction and Derek Muller of Veritasium.
Reach hired Ashley Adams, the host of popular YouTube cooking show "Feast of Fiction," to host Nestle’s show. "Bake My Day" skews to a classic format, offering delicious recipes in one-shot videos designed to be watched by busy viewers on their laptops or mobile devices.
Gabe Gordon of Reach, a digital agency that partners with Nestle to produce YouTube content, says approximately 74% of views for "Bake My Day" are on mobile devices, while 60% of is viewed via YouTube.
The topics for "Bake My Day" videos were determined through an old-fashioned (for the web) method: combing through SEO data and web site analytics. In a Vidcon panel, Gordon was upfront about some of the advantages a big brand like Nestle can get: They were able to obtain fairly granular data through a partnership with Google to integrate into their campaign. But much of the decision on what recipes to feature, and how to present Nestle’s videos, was determined through SEO-like methods.
According to Gordon, Nestle found that the top five search terms related to Toll House’s core product (chocolate chip cookies) are "chocolate chip cookies," "peanut butter cookies," "no bake cookies," "chocolate chip cookie recipes," and "cookies." This gave Nestle very valuable data on what recipes to present in order to attract as many viewers as possible.
The YouTube recipe shows mostly skew closely to this formula: They include minishows for lemon white chip cookie bars, chocolate chip Mexican wedding cakes, and football party chocolate quesadillas. There’s even a video for DIY chocolate chip cookie care packages.
Gloria Decoste, Nestle’s head of digital strategy, said at Vidcon recently that a large part of their strategy centered on having digital agencies serve as "matchmakers" that connected Nestle with influencers. Strachan, who was also on the panel, said that an important part of partnering with Toll House for herself and other YouTube cooking personalities was making sure that the brand fit in with their own business strategy.
For Toll House and Nestle, producing content for YouTube makes sense: It promotes an older brand to new audiences and gets them directly on phones in kitchens. As more food brands decide to create their own online videos, it also gives a template of what exactly can be done with the platform.