Wisconsin Dells, The Waterpark Capital of the World, boasts impressive attractions and is known as a year-round destination for indoor and outdoor waterparks. However, this area also has incredible natural surroundings alongside the picturesque Wisconsin River—a fact that is missed by many of the area’s guests. Visitors have access to the idyllic nature hiking trails and endless opportunities for camping, birdwatching, and more.
Barriers to Entry
The Wisconsin Dells is also a fiercely competitive market, with giant players such as Great Wolf Lodge and long-established entities such as Noah’s Ark Waterpark. In order to stay ahead, each business needs to be innovative and cannot solely depend on gate ticket sales. This was a challenge the Markowski brothers–Adam, Rich, and David, who have had family history and resort ownership for more than 50 years in the Dells, set out to address with their most recent project: Land of Natura, which opened in June 2023.
The Land of Natura Vision
The Markowskis’ vision is to integrate nature into their park so visitors can experience the natural side of the Dells, yet still deliver the wow factor of a theme park. They set out to make nature the principal attraction at Land of Natura, which is situated on a 150-acre parcel of pristine land parallel to the Wisconsin River on the outskirts of downtown Wisconsin Dells. Its flagship attraction is the world’s largest naturally filtered man-made lake with a state-of-the-art filtration system to support swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling, and North America’s largest inflatable water park—Waterworld. Land of Natura also offers a 1,100-foot-long self-guided suspended tree canopy walk, forested hiking and biking trails, and numerous other attractions. Our challenge as their brand partner was to bring this vision to life in their marketing to a brand and a category that is completely new. There is no playbook for a natural theme park.
While creating a different experience than what the Dells typically offers, the team encountered some setbacks, like construction and material availability, and preserving the natural ecosystem while creating a vast outdoor experience that stands out amongst the attractions in the area. As a result, the opening was pushed back by a year, and additional built-outs and modifications are ongoing.
A Tested Concept
Before launching the Land of Natura project, the Markowskis already had a smaller-scale test concept at the Treetop Escapes Resort, which features a natural lagoon and a miniature version of the water filtration system. Knowing that there were customers who wanted something more than concrete water parks in the Dells, the team set out to make nature the main attraction and a major part of their brand proposition.
How Land of Natura Works
The team works towards its vision and constantly modifies execution in order to ensure the highest quality experience. One example is the Mt. Natura water slides, which were covered with artificial turf at the time of the park’s opening, but then removed for real grass since the turf didn’t live up to the expectations. In addition, the thirty-foot slides were replaced with sixty-foot slides in order to make the experience more exciting.
Also, to maintain fast communication with their visitors and make adjustments when needed, the Land of Natura team prints all their signs, including exterior signage, billboards, and marketing materials, in-house. With this approach, they are able to be nimble and easily adjust prices or other details.
At the start of Land of Natura’s opening, a variety of competitive and operational challenges and customer feedback arose that necessitated a quick reaction from our collective client and agency team at Blend.
For example, their competition dropped their general admission prices, forcing Land of Natura to react with free admission passes to ensure visitors would check out the park or even purchase a paid ticket to the top attractions. Additionally, revenue-generating add-on activities such as floating raft rentals and beach and floating cabanas were enhanced. Another pivot was on the timed entry system for Waterworld. Operationally, it wasn’t working, so it was removed, allowing guests unlimited time on the attraction. Pivots like this required frequent changes to the website and revisions of the messaging for clarity and simplicity. These changes allowed more visitors to experience the park while still achieving revenue that exceeded projections and earned visitor approval.
Bringing the Land of Natura Brand to Life
Land of Natura’s brand message was brought to life in various ways, including the tagline “Where the Fun Comes Naturally.” The visuals included bold yet natural colors, typography, icons, and nature symbols of Wisconsin to communicate a blend of energy, fun, and the natural outdoors. We executed these designs on the website, van wraps, detailed maps around the park, brochures, and advertising.
Food is a Key Component of the Brand
Instead of offering hamburgers and hotdogs, which are commonly expected in the Dells, Land of Natura chose to offer products that best align with its brand. This includes featuring products and produce from local farmers in the area, as well as providing an extensive menu of vegan and vegetarian options alongside popular favorites. They also introduced a fresh and exciting cocktail menu in their bar using seasonal ingredients. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and food sales have exceeded projections.
Our goal was to build an extensive advertising plan to quickly build awareness and attract guests to the park. We developed numerous video, carousel, and static ads that were tested to deliver the ideal messaging and optimal return on ad spend. Land of Natura is also investing in advertising efforts in key Dells visitor markets such as Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minnesota.
Collaboration with Land of Natura
From the outset, our Blend Team worked closely with Land of Natura to build the brand and marketing strategy and launch plans. To accomplish this, a test / learn / adjust approach was fostered, which enabled the team to operate in a responsive and agile manner when updating websites, improving conversion rates, and assisting users in finding the desired information. Multiple photo shoots were also needed to depict park upgrades and the opening of new attractions throughout the summer (and visual content for marketing for summer 2024). Our collaboration of fluid feedback and suggestions from their team and ours has been vital in maintaining the positive momentum generated by this brand launch.
In just 9 weeks since its June 17, 2023 opening, Land of Natura has welcomed 66,845 visitors through its doors. As summer comes to a close, preparations are underway for the park’s inaugural fall and winter activities.