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Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy. I'm coming to you this morning from the town in Connecticut where I live, and behind me you can see a shopping development that's been there for more than 50 years. It isn't in great shape, much of the retail is mediocre at best, and it isn't exactly the thing you want people to see when they drive into town; it suggests that the town's better days are long past.
The good news is that much of the town has been getting a facelift in recent years - there are more stores and better restaurants here than ever. And the development you see behind me also is likely to have a new life - and friend of mine who is a local real estate developer has acquired all the land, and plans to raze all of it so that a new, tastefully done, New England-style yet totally modern center can be built there, featuring stores, restaurants, offices and even condominiums.
I've seen the plans, and they're impressive - ambitious yet tasteful, and respectful of the town's past without being held hostage to it; my friend is the antithesis of a guy like Donald Trump.
In fact, he was showing me the plans - which still have to go through a lengthy approvals process before a shovel can go into the ground - the other day. At one point, he looked at his watch and said he had to go. When I inquired, he said that he had a meeting - with a local 12-year old boy (he knows the family) who had been reading about the planned development and had some ideas.
I'm not stupid. I know a good commentary when I see one. I asked if I could tag along, and he said yes.
I have to tell you that this 12-year-old was very impressive. Smart, curious, and savvy enough to have polled his friends on the school bus to find out what they'd like in a new shopping development. He also brought along pictures of things he'd seen on family vacations that he thought might be applicable, and website addresses for businesses that he thought might be relevant. I suspect this kid is going to be a lawyer, an architect or real estate developer some day.
But I also was impressed with my friend. He took this kid very seriously - this was a real meeting, with lots of back-and-forth, legitimate questions, and a desire to understand what the young people in town might be looking for. (The general answer, by the way, is that they're interested in retail that engages them, not just tries to sell them stuff. He also saw the value in a ping pong parlor. Also fire pits. I'm with him on all this stuff.)
We talk about this a lot here on MNB - the importance of listening to more than just the usual suspects when developing formats, products and/or promotions. Talk to all the same people, you're likely to get all the same answers. That's no way to create innovative foundations, sustainable growth, and broadly relevant concepts.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.