Nature Valley simplifies the great outdoors

A new campaign capitalizes on the insight that it's not just technology keeping kids and families from enjoying nature.

Families lead busy lives, but Nature Valley’s summer campaign aims to inspire them to stay connected with nature every day.

The “100 #NatureMoments for 100 Days of Summer” campaign is giving Canadians a list of things they can do every day for the remainder of the summer to reconnect with the parts of nature they find all around them. They tend to be simple activities such as star gazing, climbing a tree and flying a kite.

A different activity will be spotlighted every day, or the full list can be downloaded from the Nature Valley website.

The PR-led campaign kicks off this week with Ben Klasky, a public speaker and CEO of outdoor education nonprofit IslandWood, going on a media tour to promote the concept.

The list has also been sent to a group of influencers who will create content around its individual activities. The campaign is also being supported with social media and blog content around the activities and statistics about nature, as well as an in-store component.

Veritas led PR and social on the campaign, with Cossette Media on the media buy.

Nature Valley launched its “Rediscover Nature” platform in 2015 as part of an effort to move away from product-focused messaging. The campaigns have been primarily focused on technology, be it through TV spots or online video series featuring parents lamenting how kids spend play time glued to screens instead of going outside.

But technology is only one barrier preventing kids from getting outdoors.

In a survey of 500 adults and 200 children conducted for General Mills Canada by Vision Critical, 35% of Canadians under 18 said they prefer spending time with some form of technology. Other barriers the research identified were related to societal pressures and busy lifestyles Canadian families are living. Many parents feel pressured to enroll kids in structured, organized activities like sports (as opposed to letting them play on their own), which also fills up free time when added to things like homework.

There is also a focus on “performance” and encouraging kids to do things with clear achievements, as opposed to freely exploring on their own. With those packed schedules, 27% of Canadians feel “too tired” to go out into nature, and there is a perception that it requires a lot of work to do so, like packing up the car and driving somewhere.

“The main insight we were operating under before was that technology keeps kids from going outside,” says Samuel Bussieres, associate marketing director for snacks at General Mills Canada. “What was most interesting to us was finding out that overscheduling and overstructuring and focusing so much on performance is not leaving enough time for free play and downtime. That also sparked a lot of conversation with the families we spoke to.”

That’s why the “100 Nature Moments” in the campaign are highly focused on simplicity. Many of the activities are things people have access to within walking distance of their homes, if not right in their own back yard, such as planting a garden, collecting rocks and leaves, or eating dinner outside.

“We have this idea of nature being so complex and out of reach, but 83% of Canadians have a park close to their homes,” he Bussieres says. “Based on the research and the response to past campaigns, we know this idea of getting back to nature really strikes a chord with Canadians. The idea now is about how can we actually help them take action with what they already have.”