To set a child on the path to success, a teacher cannot be the sole source of education. When the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) approached Brains on Fire, they wanted to create a resource and community that addressed this issue head on by building upon NCFL’s Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, sparking family learning activity on-the-go and inspiring connection.
To promote Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®
To create a community of learning support and encouragement for families of all walks of life funded by longtime NCFL partner Toyota
To inspire learning through adventure
For many families, there is simply not enough time in the day. Others are juggling multiple jobs, struggling with language barriers or aren’t entirely sure what they should be doing to enhance their child’s learning experience outside the classroom.
Creating a task-list of educational activities wouldn’t resound with families in the real world. We needed to start from a place of inspiration – taking into account how important the visual nature of content has become. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we spent time in the social space exploring and observing the things families were already sharing so we could meet the audience at their level by building a platform that would elevate and support those efforts.
We reframed the family learning conversation to focus on adventure. Encouraging families to adventure – whether an action-packed road trip or simply spending some quality time at a local park – would be the simple and unifying idea for the community. We needed to inspire families to explore and learn about their world together and share that story.
Armed with a goal to inspire family exploration, we developed a simple, outgoing identity: TOYOTA FAMILY TRAILS. We wanted to make family learning feel like a wonderful adventure, rather than a chore.
We researched and found influential bloggers who were already a strong voice in the family, learning and adventure conversations. We intentionally sought diversity amongst our bloggers in order to feature families everyone could relate to on some level. Finding the right fit of bloggers for our Trails Guides would both open up Family Trails to new audiences and help us develop content that models family adventures for others.
By focusing on bloggers with an established audience, we knew we would be competing with larger brands and compensation packages. We needed to let the inspiration behind Family Trails shine and spark their interest. Using the elements of surprise and mystery, we designed a padlocked wooden invitation box branded with the #FamilyTrails hashtag. A personalized card was attached advising that their adventure code would be revealed soon. The boxes were filled with items to kick-start family adventures and entice the bloggers to join as Trails Guides. When “Reveal Day” arrived, bloggers received a link to a personalized video explaining why we invited them and revealing the unlock code. Our request was simple: share your family adventures and encourage others to do the same.
With our content strategy, we wanted to give the bloggers as much leeway as possible to reflect their unique family style. We asked that they include an element of PACT Time in their blog posts, and also outlined a content scope to ensure that each of the bloggers produced varying adventures: one local piece of content, one travel and one “free choice.” Since launch, content has ranged from strawberry picking at a local farm to a weeklong road trip to New Orleans.
After six months of modeling blogger content, we opened the content doors to all families to share their story on the website. Since January of 2016, Family Trails has featured a weekly community-sourced post sharing family adventures in action and inspiring other families in the community to do the same.
Design-wise, we knew Family Trails needed to be dynamic but simple. We especially needed it to be mobile-friendly, given that families would access on the go. We designed the site to be highly visual, focusing on large images of adventure in action. We started with the Trails Guides providing most of the website’s content, with a social aggregator collecting and elevating user-generated content from the #FamilyTrails hashtag.
We employed the connections from our social researching phase as the groundwork to start elevating families on Instagram. Given that we wanted to focus on the visual nature of family adventures, we prioritized Instagram as a social outlet, and also employed accounts on Twitter and Pinterest. Focusing a social strategy primarily on UGC helps us celebrate families daily and aggregate the beauty shared by our growing community.
Despite the short time since launch, Family Trails has seen great success in user-generated content and hashtag adoption amongst families. The program has generated a lot of outside interest as well, from potential partners including PBS to future Trails Guides requests. The volume of meaningful user-generated content shared by the community inspired us to create a quarterly digital magazine curating the best of family adventures around the globe.
Our mystery invitation box had a 91% success rate with blogger acceptance.
Our FamilyTrails.com content is now 100% community-sourced with more than 50 different contributors to date and growing.
#FamilyTrails has been geo-tagged in all 50 states and more than 111 other countries.
By the end of 2016, there were 45,333 #FamilyTrails images – families participating and sharing their love of family learning adventures.
At the end of 2016, we had a combined reach of almost 16 million unique people (impressions are more than 114 million).
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) recognized Toyota Family Trails with the 2015 Silver WOMMY for the Introduction Award category.
Our community was also recognized by the Chicago Auto Show with its “Driving Engagement” Award for the most buzz-worthy social media campaign of 2015.
Your above-and-beyond partnership means so much to the staff here and [NCFL]'s work, as well as the community that extends far, far beyond these walls.