Have you ever wondered how Dollywood names their rides? Well, I for sure have, and I was able to speak with Ellen Liston in Public Relations to find out how Dollywood decided the name of the first attraction to put them on the map for coaster enthusiasts—Tennessee Tornado!
In 1999, when Tennessee Tornado premiered, the (then) Vice President of Marketing Dan Rohman used a lot of focus groups to make naming and marketing decisions based on his background with other major retailers.
During this time, Dollywood often developed the theming for their rides in-house. The Marketing Team (with help from a marketing agency) would create a list of 25-30 ideas/potential names. Then, they would run this brainstorm by other Dollywood teams. From there, the list of names would be narrowed down to 10-12 based on feedback.
The agency Dollywood partnered with set up three different focus groups including 1998 Season Passholders, people who have never visited Dollywood (1986-1998) and people who were not Season Passholders at the time but were familiar with Dollywood. They pulled from their three biggest markets at the time: Knoxville, Sevier County and Upper East Tennessee’s Tri-Cities area. Each focus group consisted of six to 10 individuals.
Once the focus groups were set up, the Dollywood team presented the concept of the new roller coaster and the potential names. These groups talked through what they liked and why. Generally, the focus groups would determine the top three names they liked.
From all three focus groups, Tennessee Tornado was one of the top names. So, viola, that’s how the Tennessee Tornado roller coaster earned its name! Dollywood has been listening to guest feedback for a long time.
Though it sounds simple, Dollywood used a very methodological, market-based approach with the focus groups. From beginning to end, the whole process took several months.
As Dollywood has grown, so has the process of deciding upon names for the new attractions. While they still use focus groups occasionally, it looks more like surveys than gathering people and sharing details of what the ride will include.
Tennessee Tornado is still one of my favorite roller coasters as I know many others love it, too. Hope to see you in line at Tennessee Tornado! Do you wonder how other rides at Dollywood were named? If so, let me know, and I’ll go exploring again!