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From the 8th Annual Shorty Awards

Toyota Family Trails

Finalist in Family & Parenting


To set a child on the path to success, a teacher cannot be the sole source of education. For children whose parents aren't maximizing the other 2/3 of the day – or don't know how to do so – we see a pandemic of academic struggle and children perpetually falling behind in educational attainment. We wanted to create a resource and community that addressed this problem head on. Through a partnership between Toyota and National Center for Families Learning, we wanted to find a way to help families build upon the NCFL's Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time® by sparking activity and inspiring connection through family adventures, whether on the road or in their backyard.

Toyota Family Trails empowers families to learn together by sharing content that sparks family learning through exploration and adventure. We believe the family is the best teacher a child will ever have – and the world around us is the ultimate classroom. Whether they're driving across the country or visiting a park around the corner, our goal is to inspire more families to grow, learn and explore together through daily adventure.

Strategy and Execution

Rather than reinventing the wheel and prescribing content, we spent time in the social space exploring and observing what families were already sharing. Research included content tangential to family learning and other communities to answer, "What kinds of family engagement are being shared and what makes them inspiring?" We wanted to meet the audience at their level by building a platform that would elevate and support those efforts. We also knew that a variety of families from different socio-economic backgrounds would be joining, so we needed a strategy that provided examples connecting families from all walks of life.

Based on insight, we concluded that the best approach was to reframe 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.

Identity: 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. As with nature trails, sometimes you follow a well-worn path and sometimes you blaze your own. That choice and challenge we wanted to bring to families.

Outreach: We needed an accelerated way to reach large audience groups without a traditional media buy. We researched and engaged prominent family bloggers with existing influence in the space. Using the elements of surprise and mystery, we designed a padlocked wooden invitation box branded with the #FamilyTrails hashtag. 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.

Blogger Content: For our content strategy, we wanted to give the Trails Guides as much leeway as possible to reflect their unique family style. We had a guideline of sharing the PACT Time elements of their adventure, because we know interaction – from open-ended questions to storytelling – expands a child's development. We outlined a plan to ensure our bloggers produced varying adventures: one local piece, one travel and the third free choice. Our content ranged from strawberry picking at a local farm to a weeklong road trip to New Orleans.

Website: We designed the site to be mobile-friendly and highly visual, focusing on large images of adventure in action. The Trails Guides provided the heart of the website's content, with a social aggregator collecting and elevating user-generated content from #FamilyTrails.

Swag: We wanted to be selective with our branded materials and picked items that would also serve as adventure tools, such as a slingback bag, adventure journal, compass and pedometer, as well as kid-friendly and easily shareable items, like brightly-colored shoelaces and sunglasses.


By creating and sharing their family adventures, bloggers became Family Trails content experts and a trusted voice of authority within the community.

Since launch, Family Trails has seen great success in user-generated content and hashtag adoption among our families. The program has generated a lot of outside interest as well, ranging from potential partnerships with PBS to inquiries from other prominent bloggers and influencers interested in becoming future Trails Guides.

#FamilyTrails has been used more than 13,500 times, resulting in 2.5 million in Potential Reach and more than 22 million in Potential Impressions.

#FamilyTrails has been geotagged in user-generated content by families in 49 U.S. states and more than 50 other countries around the world.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Brains on Fire, National Center for Families Learning


Entry Credits