A First Look at The Island in Pigeon Forge – A Brand Audit of the Smokies Next Major Attraction

by Jun 23, 2013


A Truly Beautiful Entrance

In a spot close to where the sea lion pool once occupied the grounds of Porpoise Island a landmark has risen above the Pigeon Forge skyline.  The Ferris wheel can’t be missed.  It draws you to The Island.

To be upfront, this little piece of land in the river of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee holds a special place in my heart.  It was the birthplace of my work with exotic animals.  As a 16-year-old guy I worked at what was then Porpoise Island – a Hawaiian themed attraction from a few years back, okay… a lot of years back.

I want to see The Island become successful and I believe it will be, but realize this is a work in progress.  This little dab of dirt in the river has had many years of fits and starts and will likely take another few until it finishes.

As a management consultant there is always room for improvement and here is a bit of free counsel:

The good?


Porpoise Island

It’s open and The Island looks spectacular!

  • It’s new.
  • It’s fresh.
  • It has buzz.
  • It’s well-branded.
  • It’s visible from the Parkway.
  • Marketing has positioned it perfectly in the market.
  • The marketing strategy has been executed with precision.
  • The ferris wheel provides clear differentiation from other attractions.
  • The Island has public support not the least of which is an impressive opening and entrance!

The opportunities to improve?

  1. The Primacy and Recency Effect of the Brand Experience.
  2. Convenience and Comfort
  3. ______________________________

Disclaimer:  No one asked for my opinion and I am offering advice for free.  And yes, I know most advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.  So, feel free to stop reading if you like.


Did I mention the concrete?

So, if you’re still reading my assumption is your interested in my impression, so here we go….

  1. The brand experience crested at the entrance sign on the Parkway.  From there it was flat – I needed touchpoints to remain connected.  Parking in the back on less valuable land is logical.  But the tram to the entry area wasn’t frequent so, on our visit this opening weekend, we hiked the distance.  When walking, after crossing the bridge, there is a section with no sidewalk forcing you to walk on the roadway.  This will be a safety issue and leaves visitors not knowing for certain which direction to go.  Primacy and recency?  Coming and going?  This is the first and last impression of The Island.  Immerse me in the brand.  Let me know I am about to have an experience like none other.
  2. Convenience.  Even from the closest parking lot the walk is a bit long on a 90- degree day.  Run trams and run them often.  Comfort.  The concrete absorbs and reflects heat, heaps of heat.  Gone is lush landscaping from decades old Porpoise Island. The new Island is a concrete jungle.  Yes there are trees and they will provide great shade… well, in ten years they will.  Until then several gazebos or other areas of cooler respite need to be offered.  Finally, some good old-fashioned water misting stations throughout would provide much-needed amnesty from the heat.
  3. What else is needed?   Well, I’m a management consultant, author and leadership speaker – I can’t give it all away!  But yes, there is one remaining element that would turn The Island into an absolutely magical attraction!  Do you know what it is?

Agree or disagree, please comment.  There truly is magic on this island and in these hills!