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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.

I've been on the road for the last week or so, starting in Los Angeles where I had the privilege of spending Friday morning teaching at the excellent Food Industry Management program run by the USC Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles. A great bunch of people - thoughtful, willing to ask provocative questions and not accept easy answers, and reassuring in the sense that one gets the feeling that if this is the quality of the next generation of leadership, the food industry is in good hands.

From there, I drove to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference ... but rather than stay in the official hotel, I chose to take a room at Moxy, a new format operated by Marriott. Moxy is not designed to appeal to business travelers like me, but rather to a younger, definitely hipper class of traveler. But I wanted to experience it for myself, because I'm intrigued by the trend in the hotel business of creating a range of differentiated formats that will appeal to people who simply don't think that yet another beige room is the best way to go. (I may be older than their target customer, but I've spent enough time traveling to feel exactly the same way.

What I found at Moxy was a vibe that was somewhere between a frat house and a youth hostel, though a lot nicer than both ... I backpacked around Europe a bit when I was young, and can't say that I have any yearning to relive the hostel experience...) Walk in the front door, and you can't quite tell where to check in ... until it becomes clear that the person tending bar also is checking in guests. Worked for me ... and it also enabled me to learn that they had several local craft beers on tap at fairly cheap prices.

You'll get a little bit more of a tour in the video and the pictures, but suffice it to say that the room was unique, dominated by a beanbag chair the size of a small car ... pretty comfortable to sit in, if a little difficult to climb out of. (At least for me.) The room was kind of funky, with interesting artwork, a working guitar, and no closet or dresser ... just hooks that ran along the length of the wall.

The bed was plenty comfortable, and the bathroom had a stall shower - which I absolutely love in hotel rooms. Interestingly, the flat screen television only allowed access to about 10 local channels - no cable networks, including no news ... which wasn't necessarily a bad thing considering how things were transpiring back in DC. I wondered about this, and finally realized that this is probably because most younger people bring along their own entertainment ... and the TV did allow the guest to hook into Netflix or a bunch of other entertainment options.

Moxy isn't for everybody, and isn't even necessarily for me ... but that's sort of the point. Marriott, in testing out this concept, isn't shooting for a lowest common denominator experience, because they know that these days, that'll only get you so far.

I think we're going to see a lot more of this going forward, and I think it serves as a strong lesson to every retail segment, but especially the food business. It is critical, I think, not to offer the retail equivalent of just another beige room. It is critical to be constantly testing different kinds of formats with different kinds of appeal .... even if they don't completely work, they'll provide a level of learning that you might not get in any other way.

This, of course, is especially important at a time when there is so much more competition, including the kind that comes from online merchants such as Amazon. Compelling shopping experiences become more important than ever ... and so does attacking the challenge with moxie.

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


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