Welcome back to the third and final installation of our millennial marketing series. So far, we’ve seen how Converse keeps their millennial messaging edgy. And how Coca-Cola’s focus on sustainability and personalization has consistently made them a top choice for Gen Y.

Now, let’s explore how a leading digital lifestyle publisher—Thrillist—stays relevant to their massive millennial readership by emphasizing the following:

  1. Authenticity across the board. From headlines to tweets, their cheeky, honest, friendly and “trust-me-on-this” voice is evident across all of their content and social channels. And it works.
  2. Fan love. Readers can contribute content, add commentary to articles and images, share photos on social, get featured with hashtags … and more. In short, the reader is integral to the Thrillist brand.
  3. A website that’s focused on imagery. No easy feat when your livelihood is the written word! Photos range from aesthetically pleasing products, to drool-worthy food, to wish-I-were-there landscapes. Variety is highly evident.

Let’s dig into each of these best practices here to explore how lifestyle publishers can reach and engage millennials.

1. An Authentic Approach to Storytelling

Thrillist started out as a male-centric email newsletter service in New York, bringing the best bar and restaurant openings to its readers every day. After opening up shop in several other cities, including LA, Chicago and San Francisco, the digital publisher expanded its messaging to incorporate tips about travel, health, cars, tech and entertainment. Essentially, the site has grown into a trusted source for its primarily male readership, who check back on the reg for advice on products, places and #EEEEEats.

So, how does Thrillist build trust and achieve the ever-elusive sense of “authenticity” when speaking to their audience?

It’s simple. By promoting products, locations and services that truly appeal to its readers – without ever compromising the voice of the brand.

Here is a great example. Thrillist paired up with Belvedere Vodka to produce this article24 Places You Might Run Into James Bond in America—celebrating the release of the Bond movie Spectre. In it, Thrillist highlights two dozen unique bars around the country where, naturally, Bond is likely to imbibe.

Thrillist Article

While the article is sponsored by the Belvedere brand, it never lacks for honesty. Food and drink recommendations are plentiful—so you know what to order at each locale—as are fun facts like how to stake out the best spot at the bar. Dimly lit photos—no stock images are included!—tie the piece together, giving readers the sense of an authentic experience from beginning to end.

Besides the small graphic on the title image of the article, you’d never know that Belvedere was involved with this content. And regardless, because it ultimately provides value to readers – who cares?

2. A Consumer-centric Content Strategy

In addition to their native content strategy, Thrillist also demonstrates their millennial acumen by tapping into fan love.

According to an analysis from the National Retail Federation, millennials are perhaps the least loyal generation – unless a company actively shows they’re listening (at which point, they’re apt to become quite loyal). This is applicable to all brands, even outside of retail.

For an example of reader recognition in action, look no further than Thrillist’s Instagram feed.

Thrillist Instagram Bio

The publisher actively encourages readers to share photos using a specific hashtag, which they can then use to pull in relevant user-generated content (UGC). This is important from a search perspective too, as 25% of search results for the world’s 20 largest brands contain links to UGC.

In other words, by sharing fan-sourced content, you open your brand up to a much larger audience in multiple ways, while simultaneously promoting loyalty among your most vocal fans.

Here’s an example of what this looks like in practice, using the hashtag #🇺🇸thebeautiful:

Thrillist Instagram example

3. A .Com Filled With Visual Content

Because the importance and value of images extends across every facet of the millennial mindset, Thrillist promotes an image-driven identity on its website as well. It’s not just about selfies, either. Rather, they use a variety of image formats to complement their copy and to quickly convey ideas. Remember, millennials consume content in bite-sized portions, so this last point is an important one.

What Thrillist demonstrates by prioritizing visual content across their website is that visual content is a gateway; on the thrillist.com homepage, images drive what users choose to engage with, click on, and read.

A few of the ways Thrillist leads with imagery:

Visual Headlines

Thrillist fuels interest around articles by sharing catchy imagery; even the title takes a backseat.


Interactive Elements

For instance, they use a cool hover functionality to reveal social sharing statistics. It’s easy to see how many people have viewed the article as well as how many times it’s been shared.


Here’s another interactive element that adds value to the Thrillist website: a map that integrates with their ‘Best of [City]’ lists. It encourages readers to get off the internet and out of the house – but also to return for new recommendations down the road.


Visual CTAs

Last but not least, I love this idea for adding visual elements to on-site calls-to-action. Instead of a traditional Instagram follow button to drive users to their feed, Thrillist created a banner of Instagram images, shifting the focus to the content itself.


That’s all, folks!

Thanks for joining us on this millennial marketing journey.