Hitting The Mark

Hitting The Mark

Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.

Fabian

EP075 – Thrillist: Adam Rich, Co-Founder

Strategic Clarity + Verbal Clarity

Adam Rich co-founded Thrillist by sending out an e-mail newsletter to 600 people about things to do in NYC. Well, as they say, the rest is history.

 

I talk with Adam about how a newsletter turned into a trusted brand and a global multi-platform media monster hitting the eyeballs of more than 300 million people a month, how understanding and sticking to your brand’s DNA is key to brand growth, how emotion and data demand to co-exist, and why thinking about your brand’s legacy must inform your brand’s every action.

Notes

Fabian Geyrhalter: Welcome to the show, Adam.

Adam Rich: Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Oh, it’s so good to have you. We had the pleasure of meeting on a different occasion yet also, sadly, virtually, but that was a couple months ago and you and I just talked business. So it is nice to have you officially behind the mic to chat about, I guess the over 17 years you spent, and I’m paraphrasing you here from your LinkedIn profile, turning your obsession with getting the best out of New York City into a global lifestyle beast. So how were those first months and the first years of that, of that long journey, how did you start Thrillist with your co-founder?

Adam Rich: You know, it really just started extremely organically, as I think everybody would like to believe that their business is meant to, but we were friends from college, living in New York City, talking about all the different things going on, and I was just completely dazzled by how much stuff was happening all around me and had this real fear that I was missing the good stuff, because I just knew that with limited time and money, you had to really take your shots. I was a couple years out of school and didn’t have that much money or that much time and would go and talk to friends, people that had been in cities a little bit longer than I had, and ask them what I should be doing. And what I found talking to him was that there was a pretty broad interest in a trusted voice on how to spend your time and what was really exciting and what was worth your limited time and money.
So that conversation just about what you were doing tonight and how you’re spending your weekend and where you were taking a date quickly turned into a lifestyle product. And we started it as an email newsletter, that was our first modality. So that gave us a platform start getting this value out to our consumers, and through the years as Thrillist grew and changed and became so many other things, the thing that really helped me keep it true to that original premise was that idea of value to an audience and making sure that everything you did left them the better for it.

Fabian Geyrhalter: And it’s interesting because, because the newsletter still seems to be at the heart of Thrillist even today.

Adam Rich: Yeah, it’s really our direct conduit to our consumer, and I think that it’s still very central to the brand in a couple of ways. Number one, it’s just a lifestyle offering where, if we promise to keep you up on the very latest and greatest, having an email every single day waiting for you with that information is a really, really good and intuitive way to deliver that. As a publisher, it’s also tactically really proven to be extremely critical because in this era of the social platforms intermediating publishers from their audience, and what does the Facebook algorithm think of this and how is Google ranking that, to be able to have that direct connection with them where you send an email and it gets to them and it has whatever you put in it is really a pretty critical tool to have in your belt as a publisher. And as anybody who’s built an email list can tell you, there is no such thing as a good quick email list. You’ve just got to chip away it forever. So we started collecting email addresses back in 2004 and just kept building on it from there.

Fabian Geyrhalter: All 600 of them. That’s how you started. 600 people.

Adam Rich: We were literally just going through our pockets and who was unfortunate enough to have given us a business card and whose friend could we send, and who was in a sorority at Madison that was going to send it to her friends.

Fabian Geyrhalter: The influencers, early influencer marketing, that’s what you did.

Adam Rich: That’s right. Nobody knew to call them that, but that’s what they became.

Fabian Geyrhalter: It’s funny how these terms start existing. Even though there were always influencers, ever since the first day of advertising and marketing, but now we have a term.

Adam Rich: No, it’s so true. And I think that that’s such an interesting arc to reflect back on, where we didn’t know to call them that, but there were always these influencers, there was always the person you knew that had a total handle on nightlife or the new chefs or what was going on in the club scene, and then we figured out to call them influencers, and then as soon as you put a label on it, then people start to find it loathsome. And I feel like that’s just the natural progression of these sorts of social phenomena.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Absolutely. And talking about which, you were one of the pioneers really in the, in the content meets commerce game. And things changed so dramatically as you have seen since you did that. You must have spent a lot of your time defending Thrillist’s position by just constantly toying around with what’s new and what’s next? What were some of the most challenging and exciting moments at Thrillist during your 17 year tenure?

Adam Rich: Well, the thing that we had to, and I think probably still have to really be loud and vocal about is that while our primary ad product since day one has been branded content, our editorial content is not for sale and is 100% editorial and isn’t influenced by advertisers or anything like that. It really is just what we believe to be the very best thing out there. So the thing that was discouraging, especially in the early days, was talking to people about Thrillist and what we do, and you’d have someone say, “Oh, I really am and enjoying it, and I really don’t mind that the restaurants are paying you.” And we’re like, “No, no, that’s not what’s happening.” Not only is that not what’s happening, it’s also completely unrealistic to imagine that this little restaurant that just opened up is going to have the budget to go and do a media spend.
But I think that one of the things that we’ve always had to contend with, is from day one, pursuant to what I was saying before about always leaving people the better for having engaged with your product and brand, we always knew that we wanted to be recommendation only. We figured that there are plenty of places to go and hear the bad news about something not being good, but if you could be a brand that everybody knew the minute that they saw your content and your offering, that they could come away feeling better about a thing, that there’s something they could put on their list, that’s just a good way of putting good energy into your relationship with people.
But what we found was that there was just a lot of inherent skepticism around positive reviews and being a positive voice out there. I think people are so accustomed to being marketed to in so many ways and through so many different channels that it’s just an ongoing reinforcing message that we have to put out there that we’re positive and we’re saying that things are good and that you should go and spend your time and money on them, but it’s not because they’re paying us, it’s because we’ve done the research and we’ve really found that they’re worth it.

Fabian Geyrhalter: And like you said, I mean, people are jaded. I mean, even I am always surprised when I look at the content of Thrillist even today, where you have your holiday shopping list, like this is what’s hot this season. And then I’m so surprised that in the end it’s actually… It’s very thematic. So you go towards like… For the foodie in your life or for the hi-fi or whatever. And then you go in there and it’s actually someone from the scene, like a great, a great chef or someone who’s in that hi-fi scene talking about, “Well, this is what you should give, because this is the stuff that I like.” So it becomes so authentic. And I think that authenticity is something that a site like Thrillist, like you said, must have constantly been fighting for to actually to actually own that, of like, “Yeah, no, we are just as good as these great voices around us that we invite into our brand so that you can actually get the best stuff from people that we think know their stuff.”

Adam Rich: Yeah, and that’s a thing that has taken us a long time to really dial in because in the beginning, and you’ll still see that with some of the content that we create, it’s from Thrillist. And those are really about the areas that we own, where city to city, we really know what’s going on. We know what the good restaurants are. We know the cool places to get a cocktail. That’s something where we don’t have to borrow any credibility from another voice.
But as we branch out into more and more different types of content, the idea that there were other people out there who were interested in creating with us that could lend that authenticity and that expertise, that was a very calculated decision to decide here’s where the Thrillist expertise really needs to come in heavy, and we don’t need to go and talk to anybody about where you should go and make a reservation this weekend. but when it comes to hi-fi components or gift guides, stuff like that, it’s good to go and work with somebody to borrow a little bit of that credibility and work together to come up with a hybrid offering that is really dialed into the interest of our audience, but leans on a little bit of what this person has really become known for and is expert in.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Yeah, and I absolutely love that approach. And I mean, it comes through even in the content that you create yourself as Thrillist. If you have a certain list or a certain editorial feature, it’s so cool when you scroll all the way down to the bottom, you actually give credit to the people within Thrillist. On this feature, this was the creative director, these were the editors, these were the writers. And I think, again, that is authenticity, like everyone owns this and it’s not… Nothing of that sort is paid for. But we talked about social media for a second before you brought up the different channels, and these days, coming from Twitter then to Snapchat, Insta, now TikTok, content these days for a majority travels outside of the website, and the way that Thrillist was in the beginning created obviously, was a platform. Like you go to a newspaper, it just happens to be digital. How does a brand like Thrillist create content specific to these various platforms to get the most out of them, and when do you abort some of them to focus on the ones that show the most ROI?

Adam Rich: Yeah, it’s a great question. The idea that we arrived at a few years back, when you were starting to see the social platforms not just being popular, but being these conduits for content, was really this idea of setting aside our position as, “Hey, we’re people running a website and here’s how we’re operationally set up, and that’s where we publish our content and our ads go next to it, and that’s how we make money.” But again, taking a step back, kind of to what I was saying before, where we stay really close to this idea of owing a service offering to the audience, and just imagining what does this person want from us? How do we go and respect the fact that they’re now spending a bunch of time on Facebook? Thrillist should be part of that experience because they’re our audience. So how do we go and fish where the fish are and say, “Okay, we’re not going to say, ‘You’re on Facebook. We’re going to go on Facebook and just send you a link to take you out of Facebook and bring you to our website, because that’s where we’re used to meeting you.'”
Instead to say, “Okay, what are the opportunities within the Facebook platform and how do we respect their choice to spend time where they are?” So whether that’s our Instagram handle, which is awesome, and just has such an exciting blend of content from travel to food to things to do, to the videos that we publish onto Facebook directly into the feed where if you’re going through your feed, looking for interesting stuff to kill a minute, there’s a video right there, and we’re not asking you to visit our site and deliver us an ad impression. It’s one of those questions that we just had to ask ourselves at pretty regular intervals as the digital publishing landscape would change, who are our people, and we’ve stayed really close to that, where are they spending time and how do we go and respect the nature of that environment to bring them the message that they’ve come to love Thrillist for?

Fabian Geyrhalter: And talking about who are your people, in the beginning, you self-defined your people through creating this list of 600 people. These are supposedly hopefully our people, but it’s also just like throwing things out there, whoever you have. How did you in the beginning define your audience over the first couple of months or half a year or year, or did the audience start defining you to a certain extent?

Adam Rich: Well, we started with what we knew, and our origin story was a series of the conversations that I described before between me and my business partner. But once we started to feel that we actually had something to say, and that we needed a platform to get it out there to a scale audience, we looked around and tried to identify other publications that had the same kind of lifestyle ideas that met the needs of a specific audience that weren’t super broad.
Because part of what I was frustrated by as a consumer in New York in 2003, 2004, was that you’d go onto something like Citysearch at the time, and it would say this restaurant is hip and affordable. And I would think to myself, “Well, is it affordable for me, a 23 year old guy at my first job? Or is it affordable for the guy that just got out of that black car?” So the idea of really getting specific about who we were talking to was something that we knew we wanted to dial in from day one. So we looked around and there was actually at the time a really successful publication called DailyCandy.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Oh, I remember. It dates me a little bit, but I do remember.

Adam Rich: You and me both, brother.

Fabian Geyrhalter: They were nicely designed too. I remember that.

Adam Rich: They had a great thing and they were perfectly aligned with the Sex and the City moment of early aughts.

Fabian Geyrhalter: The illustration style, exactly.

Adam Rich: Yeah. And like just down to the illustrations and everything. So we really admired their business and looked at what they were doing for women in New York around shopping, around new restaurants, and recognized that for the people we understood best, young guys in the city, there was room for essentially a male gendered analog to that. So our early days were actually as a male interest publication where it wasn’t really about necessarily like, “Here’s where you go to get a shave,” but it was just what is the guy thinking about? The idea of where you take a girl on a first date where it’s going to be really romantic and look great, but maybe won’t break the bank. So things like that, that we just knew from talking to one another and our friends from school, that there were just a lot of us out there asking these questions and there wasn’t anybody really coming in and answering them.
So this is just a long way of saying that when we got started, we were really dialed into this idea of a post-college guy in an urban environment. And then we just started to watch the numbers and look at where people were coming from and who was engaging with our stuff, and we just realized that we were limiting ourselves by saying that we were male interest, and that really what we were about was a lean forward attitude toward getting the best out of the place you live. And that didn’t have to do with being a man or woman or however you identify. It was just about a relationship to discovery. So we very quickly just started to think about things much more inclusively, and we weren’t afraid of DailyCandy at that point, so we just said, “Hey, we’re kind of for everybody.” It’s about whoever wants to go out there and try something new and have some fun.

Fabian Geyrhalter: And was that the time where… I mean, I guess today you call it hyper growth, but I mean, was that the time, when you made that switch to not be focused and not niche and actually open it up, was that the time where you suddenly saw a big surge, or when did you feel like there was this big breakthrough moment where you felt like, “Okay, this is not a little startup newsletter idea now. This is actually a brand. We’re turning into a brand.” When was that moment?

Adam Rich: It’s interesting because when you sent me the questions that you like to ask guests, and I started thinking about that idea of when were we a brand, what I realized is that we pretty much from jump had you think of ourselves as a brand because being a subscale media offering that’s advertising supported, unless you’re a brand, unless you’ve got a significant component of sizzle versus the amount of steak that you’ve got at that point, you’re not going to be able to get those first couple ad deals. And without those first couple ad deals that you don’t get the next ones. So from get go, we had to be thinking about ourselves as be more than just a business or more than just a growth strategy or content strategy, and that there was some intangible little spark to what we were doing, even if we were only 600 people.
And one of the ways that we started out cultivating that sizzle was that when we launched among those 600 people, we actually went out there and specifically sought out bloggers in New York City, people that had blogs and readerships and were specifically focused on the urban lifestyle and basically invited them to share Thrillist with their audiences and gave them each a preview code, because you couldn’t sign up at that point without having a preview code. We were still in beta. So having that insider buzz in the early days was something that helped with growth, sure, but it also had the right people talking about us at those early moments that turned us into more of a brand than our numbers or our business would suggest we were in straight business terms.

Fabian Geyrhalter: That’s really nice. I like that because that’s the grassroots idea, and that’s how things really… That’s how brands explode in a positive way, when you have enough of that sizzle going on. That’s the big question, data versus emotion. and I know you and I, in the marketing and branding world, we’re constantly faced with that. I guess with Thrillist in the beginning, the idea of data wasn’t really that much around. It was more about like, “Oh, how many newsletters subscribers do we have? How many people actually open it?” But there wasn’t this humongous amount of data where you could do all these tests, and I’m sure a lot of it was in the beginning was just gut instinct of you and your co-founder and the team, right?

Adam Rich: Oh yeah. I mean, so many times we would get a pitch for something or discover a thing and just look up from our computer in our open floor plan, shared office space, and look around our editorial pit, say, “Is this cool?” And people would be like, “Nah, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s going to do it.” So that was the litmus test. And as an email, you didn’t know how long people were spending with your newsletter, you didn’t know whether they were using the forward button at the top of the program to forward things. It was such a black box, but to your question before around hypergrowth, one of the things that was a major turning point for Thrillist was…
And again, we’ve never stepped away from the importance and the value of the email offering, but we made a major pivot in the way that we thought about our local content, I want to say maybe 2010, 2011, away from being driven by feeding the email toward this phenomenon that we were seeing with Google and its algorithm, where locality was being increasingly presented as an important dimension to search and where you showed up in results.
And when we started to shift our emphasis toward search oriented local content, all of a sudden, not only were we getting reams of data we weren’t used to just because of web analytics being so much more sophisticated and nuanced than email analytics, but Google just started to send us just reams and reams of traffic. So that was really a major growth inflection point where just the email grows in such a linear, plodding fashion if you’re doing everything right. But if you have something algorithmic like the Google search algorithm to start sending people your way and you get it right, it’s a really, really different… I mean, it’s a geometric growth rather than a linear growth.

Fabian Geyrhalter: And I like to celebrate great brand builders and great brands, like yourself and like Thrillist, on this show. But sometimes, every now and then, I actually like to talk about a brand fail. Was there anything in this journey-

Adam Rich: You got the wrong guy.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Everything was perfect at all times. We went 110% with everything we’ve done. That’s it. Thank you very much for the interview.

Adam Rich: It’s been great talking.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Was there anything… I mean, was there some point in those 17 years where you were part of it, not after, because I’m sure afterwards everything went downhill once you left. I mean, how can it sustain. Was there anything where you felt like, “You know what, that was something where maybe other people can learn from, or that was a big faux pas we did.”

Adam Rich: Totally. And I think of it as a big failure, but the truth is that this sort of… So we went through a period where we came up with a bunch of expansion content verticals, stepping beyond food and drink and events, and we thought, “Okay, we’re here helping people navigate these aspects of their lives. What else is going on in our audience’s lives, and can we step into those verticals, those categories, and add the kind of value that they’re used to getting from us around food and drink?” So it was a very well-meaning play and expansion. So we launched an entertainment vertical, a sex and dating vertical, and a health vertical, alongside the more lifestyle ones. And here’s the thing. The entertainment vertical has proven to be very strong. It’s now the Watch section.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Yeah, exactly, so I thought. Exactly, so that survived.

Adam Rich: Yeah, that’s been great. And that’s been one that I’ve been extremely proud of, but with sex and dating and with health, it was just… The proposition was there, but it didn’t really align with the core reasons that people found us to be special and worth engaging, especially health. So for me as a person who loves to go out and eat and drink too much, I also am active, so I thought to myself, “Oh, well I would appreciate this kind of thoughtful guidance that I get with my restaurants around how to be healthier, how to be more active and that kind of thing.” But ultimately, even as we started to grow audiences against these things, and they were pretty healthy, we came to just realize that they were undermining the clarity of the brand’s identity for people, and even if they were growing nicely and bringing in new audience and new traffic, the value of a clear brand identity was worth more than the tonnage of new eyeballs that two new content sets could bring into us.
So as we were saying, we kept entertainment and it evolved into Watch. And that was really a wonderful thing to have, especially through the pandemic, as so much attention that used to be on going out and engaging externally became what do you watch, how do you go and spend your time during this weird period? To have a mature offering to address that was really wonderful, and we’re really glad to be able to help people with that period as much as we could. But for sex and dating and health, we realized that we had taken a step in the wrong direction and lost a bit of clarity with those things.

Fabian Geyrhalter: I love that you shared this, and like you said, it wasn’t necessarily a brand fail, it was expanding… And it wasn’t even expanding too quickly. It was just expanding into something that did not go back to the core of the brand. And I think that that’s when you talked about the brand clarity, because to me that is literally everything. The brand clarity behind Thrillist is we are very clear about giving you better options what to do. If you want to know what to do, and health is not what to do. Sex and dating, I guess it’s what to do, but it’s not quite what to do. It’s on the outskirts of your brand’s DNA, which is really around fun. And health, it’s not fun. I mean, you want to be healthy, but it’s not fun. Sex and dating, it’s complicated. It can be fun, but it can be everything else too.

Adam Rich: And there are all kinds of different ways to look at those decisions and evaluate how much they were in true with the original spark of what made Thrillist into a thing to begin with. And one way that you can think about it is that even if you aren’t going and eating at the restaurant that we’ve written about, the excitement around going out, discovering new things, doing new things, and just engaging with your city and having fun is something where even if you’re not doing it, it has a degree of social capital to it where you can get value out of our content, even if all you’re doing is talking to a friend at the water cooler, or I guess over Zoom about exciting things that are around you and that might be good.
And there’s this social currency to the kinds of things that have made Thrillist into a success that health doesn’t really align with. And as far as sex and dating goes, I think that we can imagine that our audience can figure that stuff out on their. Own you’re not going to the water cooler and being like, “How do I talk to this girl?”

Fabian Geyrhalter: Exactly. It’s about being in the know. I mean, a lot of it has to do with that, and being able to expand your horizon and that of others that you talk to. I mean, that leads straight to one of my favorite questions, which is your brand’s DNA. The DNA of Thrillist. I already hinted it a little bit, because on Instagram currently it says taking fun seriously, which quite frankly, I love, because it’s such a fun three words and it’s so fun. I mean, is fun the brand’s DNA?

Adam Rich: I think so. We play around with all different ways of articulating this thing that for my business partner and me and the early employees was always right there. And I think that that’s one of the places where brand gets so interesting is when you have something that begins with a couple of real true believers that just have a sense for what this thing is meant to be and how it’s so supposed to look and sound and feel and taste, and then you’ve got to go and grow, and you’ve got to have all the people that are there making it happen just as lockstep dialed into this idea of brand, this idea of DNA. And then all of a sudden you’re thinking, “How do I articulate this thing that makes fundamental sense to me, that I never have to second guess myself about, and that is as concrete as the chair I’m sitting in? And then how do I go and articulate that?”
So it’s a thing that we, like so many brands, have had to just continually work at. And I think taking fun seriously is a really, really great new iteration of this idea where the implication is that having the best fun isn’t easy, and if we’re doing our jobs, we’re going and crunching all the numbers and working late nights and building the experience and writing the code. So that for you, it’s just as easy as an email or a Google search that we come out at the top of to know what you’re going to go and do that weekend with your college buddy who’s visiting.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Totally. And you already answered a lot of that, and maybe you have already answered it, but after everything, you’ve been through with Thrillist and in working on plenty of other brands since then, what does branding mean to you? How would you define branding? It’s a very misunderstood word.

Adam Rich: Yeah, and I think it can become a little bit of a dirty word because I think that for a lot of companies and businesses that haven’t really thought about it from day one or that didn’t begin with an intuition around it, it becomes a thing you’re talking about when you’re having problems and there isn’t enough of clear space in the market for you, or maybe someone is coming and eating your lunch, and then it’s like, “Uh oh, do we need to deal with a branding agency and do we need to go and build all these weird decks?” And I think brand is actually something that is so much more simple. I think it’s a two part thing, and number one is just an extremely clear and specific notion of identity and what essentiality you have. And the way that I think about that is like, if you were to go away tomorrow, who would have a hole in their life and why would there be nothing else out there to just go and fill it?
And when I talk to people that are going and starting a business, and I really push them on this question because I think if the answer is, “Well, if we went away tomorrow, they would just go and sign up for this, or they would decide, ‘Okay, Hulu is going to get me my sports.'” Then you’ve got a real uphill climb because you don’t have something that is really differentiated. So that idea of identity and essentiality is the first part of branding. And then the second part is just that everywhere that someone encounters you, you are articulating those truths in a way that is natural for the place that they’re encountering you. So if it’s Snapchat, you’re not going in and relying on big blocks of texts to go and explain something. You’re not trying to share something you’ve written out that’s a mission statement. You’re platform native, you’re context native.
So that idea of communicating your truths in organic ways, no matter where anybody is encountering you, that’s the basis of branding. A lot of times that’s the right logo or the right tagline, or in the case of these branding exercises, having the right fonts and the right color schemes and all that kind of stuff. But those are really just technical ways of achieving this idea of your identity being foundationally baked into all the different ways that a person encounters your brand.

Fabian Geyrhalter: I 110% agree with you. I’m not surprised that I do, but the first part of your answer about brand legacy, that is also one of those key exercises that I do with clients, because it’s so important. If you wouldn’t be around, what would people feel? And then suddenly it’s about emotional connection and not products and features, like in data. But it’s about, what is that loss? And if you have a really hard time defining that, then you have some work to do. I totally agree.

Adam Rich: Absolutely. And I think that that idea of emotion is something that is so core in any real branding effort, because we’re just human animals and our instincts and our brains are no different than early tool users on the plains a hundred thousand years ago, or however long ago it was that we were cave men or cave people. But that idea that you’re still ultimately with all of your sophisticated tools and digital platforms and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you’re still ultimately pulling the same levers that kept a hunter gatherer safe and fed is really important. And I think it can help you avoid overthinking things, just to recognize that you owe people value and positive emotions.

Fabian Geyrhalter: The only difference is that back then the hunters didn’t have Thrillist, so they didn’t know where to hunt.

Adam Rich: That’s right. And hey, we’re for gatherers too.

Fabian Geyrhalter: That is exactly right, but for no one else, and that’s it. Awesome. As we’re coming slowly to an end here, you’re now a consultant like myself. What kind of projects fascinate you and what do you want to do more of in the coming year. When this is going to air it’s going to be just around the holidays, so what are you looking forward to in the future for your own career?

Adam Rich: Well, my initial entry into the consulting work that I’ve been doing now for a couple years really was inspired by something I was starting to see just broadly speaking at Thrillist over the years we grew a very large audience, a very large and healthy audience without doing any marketing spend, and it was through creating content and telling stories and helping people out and just doing that over and over again. And one of the things that I was starting to see as Thrillist was coming up with new tricks for the changing landscape and all the sorts of things you hear from everybody from content creators to marketers, was that brands of every type were asking a lot of these same questions. Even if you were running a D2C pots and pans brand, you had your acquisition budget.
But I think a lot of people in this day and age have this sense that if you turned off spend tomorrow, would your business just stop? And the answer that I think a lot of people in all different industries have come to realize is that you’ve got to be doing some organic storytelling, audience development, whatever you want to call it. There is the need for your brand to just be out there and to be engaging with your people in a way that isn’t just around a sale or a campaign, or just straight up acquiring them. So what I’ve been doing for the most part is helping brands of all different types figure out what that should be for them, because the answer isn’t just to go and say, “Hey, I’ve got a new brand, so let’s have a Twitter handle, an Instagram account.”
You’ve got to go and be much more nuanced about it, and why are we here, and is our strategy actually to go really heavy on content for LinkedIn? Is that the answer, because we’re actually a new kind of company that’s disrupting traditional accounting firms? Now that’s an answer. So that’s how I got into the consulting work that I’m doing. And part of what I’ve just really been enjoying after so many years with Thrillist, and I’ve left my operational capacity there, but it’s all still always a thing that I’m paying attention to, it’s really exciting to go and see how different each of the different companies are and how nuanced the answers can be given the audience they’re trying to reach, the emotions that they want to inspire, the places that they want to be thought of as being an expert. So that discovery just on my own part of all the variety out there after so many years of focusing in on my business has been really exciting. So that’s really been the part that I’ve been digging and being nerdy about.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Yeah, that’s fantastic, and that is really exciting. And I love the way that you showcase the pain points that people have, too, and sometimes they don’t even know they have it. How can people connect with you? Is the best way LinkedIn, or can they follow you on social? Because I guess everyone knows how to find Thrillist, so I don’t need to talk about that.

Adam Rich: Yeah, find me find me on LinkedIn, send me an email. adam@adammrich.com. The M is important because there’s a realtor in Colorado Springs who beat me to adamrich.com, he gets a lot of emails. Well, I mean, this guy’s been invited to bachelor parties and gotten all kinds of emails, but I think he’s probably pretty sick about getting… I think he got a bill for my kid’s school. So that one I think is probably his least favorite. It’s always mine.

Fabian Geyrhalter: Great. Awesome. Perfect. Well, listen, Adam, this was really, really edutaining, I would say. Thank you so much for your insights, and it was really, really good to catch up and I’m glad that we were able to do so in front of an audience that’s going to appreciate your thoughts.

Adam Rich: Yeah, that’s great. Well listen, anytime, and this was a lot of fun.


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