Nature Valley Takes to the Trails in National Parks Content Campaign [INTERVIEW]

At this year’s South by Southwest in Austin, granola bar company Nature Valley launched Trail View, a website that takes visitors on a visual journey through the Grand Canyon, the Great Smokies, and Yellowstone.

It is the first large-scale content campaign for Nature Valley, a brand of General Mills. The company has been happy with the results and plans to introduce an extended version of the site next January.

Along with images of the trails, the site shows maps, coordinates, and information produced by writers for outdoors magazines, said to Maria Carolina Comings, Nature Valley’s associate marketing manager.

The Content Strategist spoke with Comings about Trail View, including the goals behind it and plans for expansion.

The Content Strategist: How has Nature Valley Trail View affected your company’s visibility? 

Maria Carolina Comings: Trail View for us was just a pretty natural extension of what we’ve done in the past. We started a partnership in 1975 [with nature preservation organizations]. When you do something like this, you end up starting some interesting conversations. For us, it was never like, “We’re going to do X to get Y.”

Maria Carolina Comings

Everyone at Nature Valley and General Mills said that Trail View makes sense. Did we hope that maybe Backpacker Magazine and outdoor magazines would be interested in it? It’d be a lie if we said no. Did we hope our consumers would be interested in it? Yes.

We didn’t have a major advertising plan behind it. If we spend the most money creating content on what we want and what we’ve been doing for 35 years then it’ll sell [the product] itself.

You hope that if you create good content that people will come to it. When that plays out it’s amazing. We’ll have more traditional marketing in the future, but now we’re thinking about what content people want. We don’t need to wave a big flag that says, “We’re here! We’re here!” People will do it for you.

TCS: Why do you think people enjoy the campaign?  

Comings: Part of the Nature Valley brand is figuring out why we’re different, and why consumers care about us. There is passion for the outdoors and being active, so part of our mission is to inspire people about the outdoors.

Part of the idea is to protect the park. It’s democratic — there is a great American history [with the parks]. You’ll hear people say they planned for a hike for three hours by watching Trail View on their computers.

Trail View is the culmination of our [shared American] history. These are iconic places. We post really good content about being outdoors and it works well for us and the brand. We have a team that’s constantly listening to consumers. We had folks sit down with us and tell us their stories. It’s what helped us build it. We’ll see where people want to go with this.

TCS: What demographic are you targeting with Trail View? 

Comings: Outdoor lovers. They are the people that are hardcore hiking every weekend. We hope those guys love it  they’re our core. It’s also for the people who take a hike once a week or once a month, and for people who grew up near the parks or are inspired to go there.

TCS: Are you planning to expand the project? 

Comings: In September the team will go out and start hiking. We’ll add two more parks.

Last year when we hiked, there was silence. We’re going to interact more with consumers this year. We might have live chats when we go and do Instagram.

If people want a preview of the hike we’d be totally open to that. It’s not a secret anymore. Sequoia Park is the second one we’re working on to finalize.

Our vision and dream is to have every single national park done. We would love to go out there and get every park digitally mapped so you and I can hike them. And, they’ll have digital preservation. We’re going to parks that are different and as iconic as possible for the next couple of years.