retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There were a couple of stories that I read yesterday that highlighted the importance of constant renewal and reinvention, and how important it is never to think that the job is done and the goal achieved.

In the New York Times, there was a piece about how Boston's iconic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which in 1976 pretty much invented the idea of turning rundown urban and historical spaces into what was called a "festival marketplace," influencing similar developments in places like New York (South Street Seaport) and San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf), is about see a significant overhaul and reinvention.

Part of the the problem for Faneuil Hall has been that while it is an enormous tourist attraction, Bostonians tend to stay away in droves, and there has been a real focus on creating a more resident-friendly environment; there also is a plan that will actually highlight rather than obscure the historical facade. Ironically, the folks in Boston are looking to New York for inspiration; Bryant Park, in Manhattan, is a direct descendent of the Faneuil Hall approach, which many people believe actually has improved the concept, and it will be used as a model for what can be done in Boston.

You can read the entire story here, and it strikes me that this is an important lesson in how important it is to keep innovating, to keep finding ways to improve a brand.

The second story that grabbed my attention was a long interview in New York magazine with comedian and film director/actor Chris Rock, timed to coincide with the release of his new film, Top Five. In the piece Rock talks about a lot of things - racism, Bill Cosby, politics - but one of the subjects that grabbed my attention was the need for comedic reinvention.

In one sound bite, he talks about the need to stay current with technology and cultural references:

You have to understand it, because if you don’t, then you’re going to sound like an old guy. You got to have the ability to use it as a reference. A lot of the time, the difference between hip and unhip is just reference. We did some sketch the other night on SNL, and in it I tell my wife — actually, we messed it up, but it was better in the dress — anyway, I tell my wife, 'Hey, honey, the cab’s here.' Then I look at it again. I go, 'You know what? We got to rewrite this.' 'Hey, honey, the Uber’s here.' That little difference, it’s a big, big deal. I remember seeing Robin Williams at Town Hall. He did some Elmer Fudd bit, and I was like, dude, if you change that to SpongeBob … You’ll seem a lot hipper. I do not wish to become Alan King…

And, Rock comments about the late Joan Rivers:

Great person, underrated comedian. Who the hell’s funnier than Joan Rivers? That whole reference thing: Joan updated constantly … Okay, these Liz Taylor jokes are gone, and they are now Lindsay Lohan jokes. The compliment you give of a comedian is: Who wants to follow them onstage? Nobody wanted to follow Joan Rivers, ever. Even in her 80s, nobody wanted to follow her.

It is a funny, thoughtful and occasionally profane interview, and you can read it here.

Call it what you want. Reinvention. Renewal. Updating.

Whatever.

The critical thing is never to become complacent.

It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: