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Innovation Strategy Example: Nickelodeon Universe

Innovation Strategy Example: Nickelodeon Universe

A Theme Park Inside a Mall? It’s Brilliant.

How can you make use of your environment? The Nickelodeon Universe theme park provides a great innovation strategy example, leveraging the climate of the region, its specific location inside the Mall of America, and a clever pricing system to make the most of what could be a somewhat challenging environment.

Innovation Strategy Example:
Nickelodeon Takes the Fun Inside

Minnesota is known for its long, cold winters. In fact, the region experiences some of the widest variations in temperature of any area in the continental United States. Such an environment could be challenging for an outdoor attraction, like a theme park.

The Nickelodeon Universe theme park solves this problem by being an indoor theme park. The park has always been indoors, which allows it to draw visitors in during Minnesota’s hot summers and cold winters. The indoor space has plenty of natural light and very high ceilings, mimicking the experience of being outdoors while keeping its visitors out of inclement weather. 

This indoor park has gone through three different phases. Originally, when the mall opened in 1992, the park was known as “Camp Snoopy,” but it rebranded in the mid 2000s to “The Park at MOA” and finally in 2008 to “Nickelodeon Universe,” after failing to reach a new contract with the owners of the rights to the Peanuts characters. 

The Minneapolis-Saint Paul Magazine notes the success of the rebranding, writing

“the mighty and entertaining space features all varieties of characters kids love—Paw Patrol, SpongeBob, Bubble Guppies, Dora, and more—with a mix of new rides and a refresh of many of the iconic originals.” 

Innovation Strategy Example: Nickelodeon Universe

Innovation Strategy Example:
Surprise & Delight

Another innovation strategy example is the park’s innovative architectural design. The bright colors and wonderful skylights at Nickelodeon Universe contribute to a pleasant visual experience and show another innovation strategy example of defying expectations. When I visited this November, the environment was remarkably like Disney World or any other major theme park. I initially expected an indoor theme park to be somewhat gloomy or dingy, but I was wrong. It was not cramped or overcrowded, and indeed felt spacious. Therefore, Nickelodeon Universe can mimic a nice day outside, year-round. The space is so large that it is hard to imagine until you are in it. 

Innovation Strategy Example: Nickelodeon Universe
Nickelodeon Universe, in all its splendor

Innovation Strategy Example:
Location, Location, Location

Nickelodeon Universe is not just innovative because it is indoors, however. Another good innovation strategy example from its owners is its relationship with the mall. The Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States, and its attractions (in addition to shopping) are not limited to Nickelodeon Universe. 

MOA has its own aquarium inside, as well as places to go mini-golfing and play laser tag. Nickelodeon Universe has the opportunity to capitalize on the general foot traffic of MOA, which according to the mall’s owners:

 “welcomes more than 40 million annual visitors, forty percent of whom travel from outside of 150 miles, and is the number one tourist destination in the Midwest.” 

Furthermore, Nickelodeon Universe is located so centrally to MOA that it would be very difficult to visit the mall without seeing or even passing through the theme park. The architecture of the building draws visitors into Nickelodeon Universe, as more or less every path through the mall leads a visitor back to the park. The mall benefits from family-friendly attractions like Nickelodeon Universe, where older kids can safely entertain themselves while parents shop, and the park benefits from the patronage of people who might otherwise not go out of their way to visit a theme park.

Innovation Strategy Example: Nickelodeon Universe

Innovation Strategy Example:
Low-Pressure Pricing

The pricing model of Nickelodeon Universe is another innovation strategy example, and a way that the park draws visitors in from the mall. Unlike most theme parks, which have a flat rate for entry, Nickelodeon Universe offers its visitors a choice. Patrons can either pay for an unlimited daily pass, an unlimited yearly pass, or they can pay by the ride. 

This differentiated pricing model is extremely clever. When someone visits MOA, even if they have no intention of riding anything, they can choose to get on one roller coaster, and do not need to commit to an entire day. They also can pay less if they only want to experience a less intense or involved ride, meaning that a customer who just wants to do one thing does not need to invest much at all. Nickelodeon Universe captures the value of this customer, which would otherwise be impossible. 

Other theme parks are destinations in themselves, and so the pay-by-the-ride model would not make sense, but for Nickelodeon Universe, this model leverages the unique location of the park. This innovation strategy, called “Points Pass” is new in 2022. CEO Don Ghermezian, quoted in Attractions Magazine, noted

“The Points Pass provides our guests the flexibility to experience a few rides, meet their favorite Nickelodeon character, then try a new restaurant, experience another attraction, and shop our retail lineup, all in one visit.” 

This flexibility is a great example of innovation strategy in 2022. 

By the same token, the daily and yearly passes provide value for other types of customers. A mother of two preteens or teens, for example, could buy her children unlimited day passes and drop them off while she gets everything from her shopping list. 

For families who live close to the park, the yearly pass gives yet another use case: a family could stop in briefly, during the morning for example when lines are short, hit a few rides, and leave. 

In general, this flexible pricing model is a good innovation strategy example because it allows different customers to access the same product in different ways. This provides a lot of value for the customers and for the park. 

All three of these innovation strategies work together synergistically to create business for Nickelodeon Universe. 

  1. By being located inside, Nickelodeon Universe provides an escape from harsh Minnesota winters. 
  2. By being inside the mall, it gets more foot traffic than it might otherwise on its own. 
  3. Finally, by differentiating its levels of pricing, Nickelodeon Universe leverages its environment to attract different customers at different price-points. 

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