As published on brandchannel on September 27, 2013.
Refinery29 has hardly had a chance to settle into its new, larger office and its updated online digs. With 800 percent revenue growth in the past 24 months, it is the fastest growing company in the media division of Inc. Magazine’s 2013 5000 list. The fashion-focused site uses its strong consumer loyalty to help brands connect with Millennials, a consumer base that spends $200 billion annually, according to Chicago-based investment firm William Blair & Co.
“A lot of marketers are asking a lot of questions or intrigued by how it is they speak with a whole generation of consumers that are growing up with very different viewpoints, and technology, and opportunities, some challenging and some good that the generation before has had to deal with. It’s created a very interesting conversation,” Melissa Goidel, Refinery29’s Customer Relations Officer told brandchannel. “The thing that makes [Refinery29] unique is that we are actually creating the content of the conversation, where as those who play in the space with us are really more of the channel for the conversation.”
Known internally as the ‘R29 wink,’ the site has developed its own voice that is approachable and tailored to its users. As Christine Barberich, Refinery29’s Editor in Chief explained, “Our readers come to us for our own unique point of view, as well as the reactions and conversation from their fellow readers. Our audience feels personally connected to Refinery29, our editors, and our content because we create it with them at the very center of it…we share and talk to each other, we never dictate. And that really does make a reader feel like this experience and content was created expressly for them.”
One way the site achieves its ‘friendly’ nature is by avoiding out-of-reach, aspirational model shots that you might find in Vogue or W Magazine, instead opting for ‘real’ people, sometimes its own employees, to model new trends. The down-to-earth approach stretches across its content, too, with the site presenting a mix of high- and low-fashion in an effort to be relatable on all levels.
“They’ll be Alexa Chung and then another [article] about someone who knows how to rock a pair of Keds in a new way that’s totally dynamite,” said Eben Levy, the Director of User Experience. Women are especially attracted to the site because they can find trends that fit their own style using items that are in their price range or are already in their closet.
But perhaps what has made the site most successful is its ability to mix R29 content among branded, promotional pieces. For one thing, Refinery29 always has a role in the branded content. For instance, Levy exlains that a recent article featuring Levi’s clothing was written and shot by R29, who interviewed 10 entrepreneurs and photographed them in Levi’s attire. For the consumer, this content helps reposition Levi’s from its cowboy image—and protects R29’s content standards.
“[Brands] are coming to us as this authoritative connection to this audience. And they want to engage,” Goidel told brandchannel. “Generally speaking, it starts with activation against this audience because they know we have the credibility and they want to approach them with a new idea—they either have that connection or the consumer doesn’t realize they have that offering or service.”
Its personalized approach, to both readers and brands, is what continues to set Refinery29 apart from its competitors. “It is our business to create amazing content that Millennial women want to engage with and we do that as passionately for brands as we do for our own purposes,”—and it shows.
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