The Judges’ Club: meet Nestlé’s global head of digital Liz Caselli-Mechael
Ahead of the September 7 entry deadline for The Drum Awards for Content, we meet this year’s EMEA chair of the jury Liz Caselli-Mechael, global head of digital and content at Nestlé.
Liz Caselli-Mechael, global head of digital and content at Nestlé
You can find out more about how to enter the Content Awards here.
Caselli-Mechael’s start in marketing was perhaps a little unconventional. She began her career working on food security and agriculture projects in developing countries, and over the next decade would develop projects for private sector companies to better serve East African and Central American communities.
But once she began working more on consumer-facing communications around food and agriculture she was introduced to Nestlé’s projects on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire. She quickly joined the company in the US and developed a content marketing strategy that brought the stories of farmers in Africa to those in the States. This led to her recent deployment in Switzerland as the brand’s global head of digital and content.
As a judge and chair for The Drum Awards for Content 2022, we caught up with her to find out more about her journey to the top, Nestlé’s content marketing strategy and what she’s looking for from this year’s entrants.
What is one problem you would fix in the food industry?
A fear of total transparency. There’s a lot of what we can’t talk about and sometimes it’s practical and legitimate, but I would love collectively for food to move to a place where we could open the curtain more for two-way conversations. Let more people in.
Sometimes the fears are unfounded, but a lot of time it’s a fear that’s not representative of understanding your audience. They likely can understand a lot more of the complexity of what we’re doing than we give them credit for.
How does Nestlé approach content marketing?
We’re taking an agile approach to content in being iterative and hands-on all the time with our audience, as opposed to the old model where you used to have the perfect package that you created for months, and then drop it out.
Now it’s more about being opportunistic, agile and investing in in-house resources with people who can easily change gears when they need to – the type of people that can build real learnings from one piece of content to the next and understand how it’s performing and engaging with people. This is as well as being hands-on and scrappy, even for larger-scale campaigns, and how that content comes to life so that it can stay grounded in what’s happening in the external environment.
As marketers grapple with the cost-of-living crisis and the impact that has on where marketing budgets go, have you found that more is being funneled into areas such as digital and content v ATL?
This was already happening for Nestlé. A lot of spending was moving towards scalable at a macro level. It’s definitely still the case in that we’re seeing more deployment where you can be focused on a consistent audience, as opposed to insisting on talking at a wide level all the time.
Even when you look at results from a brand connection and favorability standpoint, the most important thing in times where we’re tightening our belts is to not become quiet. Be more efficient, more scrappy – perhaps not having the same scale at all times, but be present and engaged with your consumers.
If there are times that you shut down on the conversation or pull back on brand building, it’s more difficult to make up that ground when you’re ready than to maintain it consistently with your consumers. It feels like you’re cutting less, but you’re saving in the long run if you make more consistent investments so you don’t lose that much ground. There are places we’ll need to get more efficient with or wait for certain experimentation or innovation, but it should never mean that we’re turning down how present and visible we are with our audiences. We should be finding ways to do that that are less resource intensive.
What is your proudest career moment?
Nestlé launched a living income program for cocoa farmers. This pathway to bring all of the cocoa farmers in Nestle’s supply chain up to a living income works based on rewarding them for sustainable and socially-responsible practices, rather than just the volume of cocoa that they produce or its quality. So even if a farmer produces a very small quantity, they can still get those incentives based on the practices.
A fun fusion of my former work and current is to try to make what can be really complicated more accessible and exciting for consumers who aren’t part of the industry. We worked a lot of content to bring that to life, both for stakeholders that work on human rights issues, but also for consumers who are just consumers of chocolate products and want to think more about where their ingredients are coming from.
What is a great piece of work that you’ve seen recently?
One of my ongoing themes on content and a big work in progress for our team (but a real area of focus) is how we make everything more about listening to our audience and less about always talking to them.
One brand that has done that so well is Eos. It had an amazing partnership based on an influencer that it found on TikTok who did tutorials on how to safely shave your sensitive zones. It picked her up and created a product that was branded based on her language, which was quite funny. Eos named it Bless Your Effing Cooch.
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I get such a kick out of that campaign. It was true to how you experienced this stuff and I loved how it found this woman who was already using the product, leaned into her tone and let her voice drive its conversation. The brand went all in on listening to what its audience needed.
How important is it for the industry to celebrate excellence?
I love [awards] and the role they play for our talent community, particularly in areas of work that might be emerging for companies and brands.
Inherently, we don’t move as fast as the market does, but the consumer does, which means it takes us a while to catch on to the importance of more modern ways of communicating on more modern platforms. It’s the talent that’s great at that, and great at being at the forefront. This can often go unrecognized, internally, because there’s just not a framework to understand how important that kind of work is.
What an external award does, besides just giving you pride and encouragement, is give you something that can show your organization how valuable that work is. It’s a critical tool to find and celebrate the talent and make sure that they’re getting recognized for the valuable things that they’re doing, even if it goes into territories that we don’t have a playbook for yet.
What has been your biggest source of inspiration?
I’m a huge fan of media outlets in communication. We’ve seen a lot of interesting ways, especially in recent years, of how news media makes complex concepts understandable, such as the relevance of climate change.
There’s been a lot of high-low treatments where you take a really complex or sophisticated topic, but give it a simple treatment for people to connect to on a base level. That’s a really favorite area of mine. Typically it happens more with news than with brands, but it’s a positive thing to take inspiration from as a brand because it’s a way that you’re providing value, as opposed to just hyping yourself.