Over the past few days, followers of the Nature Valley Twitter account have seen a most unusual change of tone in the account’s day-to-day postings.
Until recently, the General Mills brand’s feed was what one would expect from a granola bar company. Photos of scenic spots and national parks punctuated articles on backpacking, fitness, and personal health. It was nice, it was neat, and it worked well, given the message the brand was trying to convey.
On April 30, the account broke free of its outdoorsy shackles.
The ball began rolling with a reply to Twitter user “bemyanime,” who proclaimed that “Anime Twitter’s new favorite brand is @NatureValley.”
From there, things just got, well… a bit more “anime-tastic.” The company’s feed was simply flooded with anime-related content, from show recommendations (bonus points for Voices of a Distant Star!), to discussions of the company’s favorite Love Live! girl. Seriously, everything was fair game, from Miyazaki films, to Evangelion, and even Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
As one would expect, anime fans just piled on, following the account to see what they’d be talking about next, and which shows they thought rocked the hardest.
The anime fans, of course, responded to the brand in kind. Dozens of photoshopped images and fan-art flooded twitter feeds, as excited anime lovers shopped their newest BFF’s brand into scenes from everything to Kill la Kill, to Persona 3. Nature Valley, of course, started retweeting and proudly showing off their favorites.
— Nature Valley (@NatureValley) May 1, 2014
It’s rare for a brand outside of the anime subculture to really engage anime fans as a whole. There’s been lip service over the years, like Denny’s Attack on Titan memes, or Toyota’s use of Hatsune Miku to market the Corolla. To actually engage anime fans in this manner, though, particularly to the degree that Nature Valley have, is something that is pretty much unprecedented.
And that’s a good thing.
The folks managing Nature Valley’s feed have been able to create inroads into territory that other brands rarely tread. They were able to create mind share and goodwill in a passionate, eager group that has, for most of its existence, served as its own marketing group and hype machine as it went unnoticed by the world at large.
By doing so, the Nature Valley crew were able to create the ever-elusive “purple cow”, the moment in which everyone had to take notice. Seriously, the response was so great that major conventions like Anime Expo and Otakon were inviting Nature Valley to their events by the end of the first day!
To say that the decision to engage anime fans was smart is an understatement. By conversing, retweeting, and generally respecting the anime fanbase, Nature Valley benefited from incredible exposure that’s reached Crunchyroll, Anime News Network, and, well, even here!
They’ve captured hearts and minds, and will certainly become a brand that people think of on their next snack run. People love supporting a brand that they feel supports them. By proving bucking major trends and actively talking to anime fans, Nature Valley’s brand managers have thrown their support with the anime subculture, which in turn created a market that may not have existed, had the company stayed its current course.
The Nature Valley folks bucked trends and went where most major brands fear to tread. In doing so, though, Nature Valley found a warm, welcoming response that would certainly pay off in spades.
Note: Below, we’ve posted a few extra interactions and comments from both the Nature Valley account and the anime community at large. Let us know your favorites!
— d1337 (@OneWithNone) May 1, 2014