Mid-July marks the half-way point of the busy summer season for much of the northern hemisphere’s amusement parks. And it is now that they start to reveal details of the new rides and attractions coming in 2019. It’s the art of the tease. 

By Lance Hart, Screamscape

As someone who follows the amusement and theme park industry closely, you can expect the next 4 to 6 weeks that follow to be packed with exciting announcements about major new projects set to open at attractions in 2019.

How these announcements roll out can vary quite a bit. Some park chains set a date and simply release a press kit with all the concept art and details. Others like to take things to another level and put viral marketing techniques to good use. This is a little something I like to call, “The Art of the Tease”, where little hints and breadcrumbs can slowly start to appear online or inside the park itself for weeks ahead of the official announcement.

hersheypark something new art of the tease x

The art of the tease

Social media savvy park guests then see these teasers and quickly post pictures about them to their social channels. These then steamroll into online speculation resulting in a lot of extra heads turning. This then leads to lots of new eyeballs looking and waiting for the next clue to appear online. Perhaps they might a visit themselves to see first hand what is going on.

With a little extra planning the results can be spectacular.  Both for the attraction and in creating a memorable guest experience that can turn into return visits. For the parks, this kind of viral marketing can be an invaluable resource that not only primes the local market to be prepared for an upcoming major announcement, but also results in a lot of “free advertising” throughout the social media networks and online community websites.

Over the years I’ve seen this done in both simple form as well as some extremely elaborate schemes that took on a more ARG (Alternate Reality Game) style format with the creation of websites for a network of fake companies, a complex storyline and puzzles to be solved. (Yes, I’m looking at you Hersheypark!) This year the game is already on at a handful of parks. All are eager to take their fans along for a little adventure ahead of the big announcement day.

Playing games

Kennywood word search. art of the tease xKennywood has been focusing their attention online this season. They started with a few pictures teasing new construction work in the park. This was followed by a cryptic “scratch off” style game. This revealed important numbers relating to their new 2019 project. This in turn was followed by a “word search” game, The game tasked players to link the right nine words found to the nine numbers from the scratch off game.

At Carowinds things began earlier this month. A series of odd banners and product posters started to appear on the sides of a large construction wall. Some were teasers. Others were throwbacks and there was a red herring or two. The latter included keyword links to other sizable projects elsewhere in the Cedar Fair chain. As the days pass more unique themed additions are being added to the wall. The teasers on the wall are now dropping hints about the park’s next coaster. They are also appear to be setting up the theme as well. Most importantly, they are driving the online community into a tizzy.

Hersheypark may have joined the party again this week with the quiet addition of a new page on their website. This includes the Reese’s branding. It hints about “Agent Training” and seems to imply some kind of dark ride development.

The sound of silence

In some cases, especially when you have a very large project that is going to be unavoidably visible to your guests 18-24 months ahead of time, silence can be your best tactic. This can also pay dividends if an attraction knows they have guests that are extremely active on social media who are also always on the look for the next big development. Case in point… both Dollywood and Universal Orlando at their Islands of Adventure park have had very large and active construction sites for new yet to be announced 2019 attractions.

In Universal’s case, this is a replacement for the park’s former Dragons Challenge coasters. This is inside their Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed land and closed 10 months ago.  As you can imagine, online speculation has reached fever pitch as the sight of new coaster tracks are now appearing peeking over the construction walls.

Over at Dollywood, the park unexpectedly cleared out a huge section of forested property that runs along the route of their famous railroad attraction last year. There then followed massive excavation and land-prep work. Only just this week the park set the official date to make their first announcement for a “new land”. Prior to this, the railroad conductors would only joke with guests. They claimed that Dolly lost a pair of expensive diamond earrings in the woods. The work crews had been sent out to look for them.

The game is afoot… and guests love to play. After all, who doesn’t love to solve a good mystery?