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Last weekend, I enjoyed a return trip to Williams Arena – better known as The Barn to University of Minnesota basketball fans. I was accompanied by my almost-five-year-old, who made his first trip to the historic venue.
The Barn is a throwback in the high-stakes world of college athletics. While Minnesota’s conference foes play in multi-million-dollar, modern arenas with NBA-level amenities, the hangar-like Barn opened in 1928. It was built for $650,000. It features a raised floor that brings fans closer to the action and rattles opposing teams.
Generations of Gopher fans have faithfully trekked to The Barn. They embrace the chipped paint, cramped concourses and sometimes-obstructed views of the court. They see nostalgia and tradition. They can’t imagine the Gophers playing anywhere else.
Teenage Gopher recruits, however, often have a different view. They see a dumpy old gym with no air conditioning for summer workouts. They tour a venue with limited practice facilities and fewer major-college comforts. To a 17-year-old being wooed by many universities, the Barn’s charm sometimes falls flat – and last week, coach Tubby Smith renewed the ongoing discussion about whether the Barn should be replaced.
Don’t let your brand fall into a Barn-like state. You likely have a well-established base of followers. They stand by you, recommend you and faithfully buy your products or services. That’s a good thing.
At the same time, make sure you remain fresh and relevant to your next generation of fans and customers. Stay ahead of trends, understand what’s compelling to them, freshen your marketing and adopt new technology – before the competition forces dramatic change.