Pre-pandemic, Great Wolf Lodge devoted the majority of its media spend to programmatic. But as the family resort rebuilds after the pandemic, it’s turning to TV and making a splash with a brand-building campaign.
Upper-funnel metrics are now front-and-center for the hospitality-focused brand.
Earlier this month, Great Wolf Lodge went live with an omnichannel campaign introducing viewers to the family resort. It worked with Horizon Media on media planning and buying and Erich & Kallman on creative.
The resort, founded in 1997, started advertising on regional television in 2014. Once the company built up its brand recognition with an audience at scale, it broke into national TV in 2018 – and started spanning the purchase funnel.
“Since  we’ve been really focused on understanding our [audience] targets’ media consumption behaviors, and then really mirroring our media plans [accordingly] through KPIs and creative,” said Brooke Patterson, SVP of brand experiences at Great Wolf Lodge.
The brand’s pre-pandemic media plan skewed toward lower-funnel metrics like foot traffic, payments, downloads and other conversion-based metrics, she said.
But when the pandemic hit, it hit hospitality especially hard.
“Every single one of our lodges – our sole source of revenue – was closed for months,” Patterson said. “The pandemic had a huge influence on us rethinking our media approach.”
“We didn’t really have a need to drive paid media and demand when we were closed,” she added.
In the wake of COVID, the lodge decided to “go all in” on brand building, including for its newest campaign released this month.
As it watches kids trickle in once again to fly down those waterslides, the brand itself prefers to reign from the top of the tube – I mean, funnel.
“We made a conscious decision to invest more in the top of the funnel and move away from some of the performance-based elements of our media plan,” Patterson said.
Metrics that show unaided brand awareness are now the area of focus. Specifically, the brand hopes to move the needle on upper-funnel brand health metrics, such as branded search index functions and lead generation.
As Great Wolf Lodge pursues TV and upper-funnel metrics, the portion of media spend going to programmatic is going down.
The lodge isn’t buying TV inventory programmatically, but it does have programmatic plans elsewhere. In 2019, for example, 60% of the company’s digital buys were transacted programmatically. But today, that number’s down to 30%.
Although the campaign spans channels, including national, CTV, digital, social and even radio, the particularly emotive nature of video content compared with display and other non-video channels is what gives video the biggest potential as a branding vehicle.
“We fully expect TV and video to have the biggest [brand] impact,” Patterson said.