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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Q&A: Philippe von Borries, Co-founder and CEO Refinery 29, on Media for Millennials

October 31, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN@michellemanafy

Q: In your opinion and experience, do millennial readers have brand loyalty as a rule? How do you develop brand loyalty with them?

Millennials do have loyalty, but the challenge is in building it. Brands–whether they’re a publisher, beauty brand or tech company–need to be aware of a millennials’ aspirations to live mindful lives. They need to understand the values of millennials and inform his or her needs. In our case, our audience wants content that appeals to her passions, her goal-driven sensibility, and that ultimately empowers her expression. Brands need to make their message experiential and craft it around her personal life – it is all about being relatable and driving purpose.

Above all else, millennial women are passionate. While their mothers might have loyally read Vogue or always used Dove soap, when millennial women find a brand they love, they don’t just buy it, they talk about it, post it, save it, share it. They become a spokesperson for that brand, not just a consumer.

Research shows 70% of millennial consumers want to hear about brands from a trusted source. 82% agree that they only share brands that they are truly passionate, so building that affinity is critical.

Q: Do you approach the development of user experience or content differently for the millennial audience?

Absolutely. At its core, Refinery29 aims to inspire our audience to live more stylish, well-informed, and creative lives. But, there’s nothing one-dimensional or unilateral about our approach. Millennial women are (obviously) multi-faceted and their interests reflect that. Refinery29 reflects that as well. At any given moment, you could find a hair braiding tutorial next to an interview with Chelsea Clinton, alongside a comprehensive guide to fall shopping and a thought piece on hashtag activism or an essay by Sandra Fluke. We know our audience thinks about and cares about style and creativity just as much as they care about entertainment, feminism, and technology. And you can best understand this on our mobile feed, where you see all of our content, across all of these categories and more, living in harmony in one continuous feed.

Q: When working to attract and retain millennial media consumers, what would you say are the most important things to consider?

For us, it is all about user engagement. We want our audience to interact with our content in a meaningful way—and we want to get in there (in the comments on the site, on every possible social platform, and in person as well) to create real dialogue with them. It’s not about relentlessly scaling your audience, but about finding the right audience that really cares about what you are producing.

Millennial-minded women take a deliberate and thoughtful approach to their daily lives, and we approach our content in this way as well—not least of all because a large chunk of our editors and writers are millennial women. It’s this approach to engaging and inspiring our audience that has led us to become the largest independent style and lifestyle site in the US.

Philippe von Borries_Refinery29 9.30.13Philippe von Borries is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Refinery29. He founded the company with his friend Justin Stefano from a kitchen in Brooklyn in 2005 with a mission to inspire people to lead smart, stylish and creative lives. Philippe oversees Refinery29’s content, product and marketing teams and drives the strategic direction of its content strategy which has been the driving force for the company’s growth. Philippe got his start in digital media working at The Globalist, a DC-based international affairs startup. He graduated with a degree in history from Columbia University.

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