retail news in context, analysis with attitude


This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

This week's FaceTime video was recorded on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida - one of two baseball stadiums that I visited last weekend. The other was Miami's Marlins Park, where, as it happened, I went to a game on Saturday night, just hours before the tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

I was very happy to attend the Braves-Marlins game and the Red Sox-Rays games, and not just because there are few things better than September baseball (other than October baseball, of course), and not just because it was wonderful to see David Ortiz - Big Papi - play in one of his last regular seasons games. (He got three hits, including a double, on his way to the best final season of any player in baseball.)

The biggest reason I was so happy was that with those two games, I completed a goal of mine. I have now been to every Major league Baseball stadium in the country.

Man's gotta have goals.

Now, it has taken me a long time to achieve this goal. Something like 25 years. I'm not entirely sure. All I know is that when I started, my goal was to bring back a baseball cap from every ballpark, but was told at some point that I was cluttering up the house and needed to find something else to collect.

I also know that I haven't just been to 30 ballparks. In fact, I've been to 18 other ballparks that, since I started this quest, have been closed and replaced by newer stadiums. And I've been to one in a city - Montreal - that doesn't even have major league baseball anymore. So I've actually been to 49 ballparks ... and that doesn't even count all the minor league parks I've been to. (Like where the Utica Blue Sox used to play when they were a Red Sox affiliate.) I wish I still had that cap.)

But this leads right into the business lesson that I've garnered from all these ballparks.

When I started on this quest, one of the things I noticed was that minor league fields tended to be a lot more fun than the major league variety. The big league parks tended to be a little more formal, a little more staid. But minor league fields, in addition to being a lot less expensive, also did a lot more to engage with patrons. There would be ice cream giveaways, dime hot dog nights, handing out of free t-shirts, on-field races for kids - all that sort of stuff. The reason was that minor league teams knew that the good players weren't sticking around, and so they had to market the experience.

These days, the number of options on which to spend one's entertainment budget are far more numerous, and so major league teams have adopted the minor league approach - lots of promotions that help to entice and entertain the customers. (Sometimes there are too many, to be frank. On Saturday night, the Miami Marlins had a Star Wars promotion that was way, way over the top. It made me want to take a light saber to whatever genius in marketing thought it up.)

That's what retailers need to do, now more than ever. They can't just be places that stock other companies' merchandise and promote other companies' brands. They have to create enticing, engaging and unique experiences that speak to the customer's interests and desires. Sometimes, that means having the kind of nimble attitude that characterizes smaller companies. And sometimes it just means being innovative to focus on fun.

That's been the lesson of the my baseball stadium odyssey.

One other thing. Tomorrow, in "OffBeat," I'll do my ranking of the 30 existing major league baseball stadiums. I'm sure I'll annoy some folks and please some others ... but all I can tell you is that it is my list, and reflects just by biases and preferences.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: