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How Dollywood Named Its First Big Coaster

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.

Insider Tip

Tennessee Tornado generally has one of the shortest wait times at the park, which is a great perk for the roller coaster enthusiasts who love the triple loops at almost 70 mph!

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.

Did You Know?

In 1998, when Tennessee Tornado naming process was taking place, email was not commonly used. Focus groups were conducted in-person and were contacted only by telephone.

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.

Did You Know?

Though it’s more than 20 years old, Dollywood provides upmost care for their rides. Check out MY BLOG about their roller coaster maintenance.

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!

By | 2021-02-01T15:51:09+00:00 February 1st, 2021|Attractions|0 Comments

About the Author:

A Tennessee native, Andrew Courtner (Dollywood Insider 2019-Now) has lived in all three parts of Tennessee twice during his life. He was born in Knoxville and grew up coming to Dollywood as a child with his family. He now resides in Cookeville, Tennessee, with his wife and son. Andrew has his dream job of being a college professor teaching educational research and quantitative statistics. Andrew frequently visits Dollywood throughout the year making new Dollywood memories with his family while reminiscing about the memories he made as a kid. Andrew is excited to share his experiences and tips (especially about roller coasters and thrill rides) at Dollywood, Dollywood's Splash Country and Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and Spa.
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