ROI for Breakfast: the Ingredients of Morning Brew’s $13M Business Newsletter

Buttoned-up business writing. Stuffy suits and ties. Jargon galore. In 2015, Austin Rief and Alex Lieberman decided to disrupt a stereotypically boring industry by launching Morning Brew: a daily business newsletter for millennials. 

Fast forward five years, and the co-founders are eating ROI for breakfast. In 2019, the company more than quadrupled its revenue to $13M. This April, they celebrated a staggering 2 million subscribers. Readers regularly trade email snippets as a form of social currency—and Fortune 500 brands like Microsoft, JPMorgan, and Discover actively compete for the newsletter’s ad space.

But this didn’t all happen overnight. Morning Brew’s payoff is the product of many intentional (and unconventional) decisions. Here are a few lessons brands can learn from the startup’s buzzing success. 

Know who you are—and who you’re not

Morning Brew isn’t The Wall Street Journal (and they don’t want to be). Unlike their buttoned-up peers, the Brew Crew embraces business casual by featuring click-worthy subject lines like the coronavirus-inspired “Grandma, what’s a commute?” 

It’s witty. It’s whimsical. And it works. By owning an unmistakable tone, Morning Brew has built brand consistency, profitable sponsorships, and lasting consumer trust. Readers know exactly what to expect in their inbox every morning—and that keeps them coming back for more.

Anyone can put aspirations in writing. But not everyone can put them into practice. Morning Brew promised to be “the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable.” And then, they delivered.

Keep your audience up-to-date (and awake)

When readers open an email from Morning Brew, they can count on finding “the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley.” Beyond that, they know they’ll find content that informs—but never bores. 

True to their word, the Brew Crew is constantly seeking stories in the world around them. When Zoom stocks surged overnight, they broke down the implications bright and early. As SpaceX and NASA prepared for takeoff, they fueled readers’ excitement with astronaut profiles. Two months into a remote workforce, they shared the subject line, “Miss talking about the weather?” 

Each day, Morning Brew finds clever, creative ways to educate and engage their audience. That level of commitment doesn’t go unnoticed—or unrewarded. 

Skip the salesy copy

Though they consistently feature ads for top brands, Morning Brew refuses to serve up salesy copy. Instead, their trusted team of copywriters creates conversational, true-to-tone ads that read less like pitches and more like recommendations from a friend. (For example: a May 2020 ad for Vincenzo Watches led with the tagline “Don’t Believe Me Just Watch.”)

Simple, jargon-free language is a signal of respect. Readers can rest assured that the Brew Crew isn’t taking advantage of their attention—rather, they’re promoting brands they truly believe in (with a healthy shot of humor).

Innovate with intention

Morning Brew’s business newsletter was only the beginning. Today, the company also produces an emerging technology newsletter, a retail newsletter, and a podcast where they interview industry icons like Mark Cuban and Meg Whitman. 

None of these ventures are random. Rather, they’re deeply rooted in brand identity. Consumers respect the Brew Crew for innovating with intention—and never compromising their core values. 

Ready to brew up your own brand-consistent content? Our creative agency loves crafting clever, true-to-tone messaging (like this intoxicating web copy for Flâneur Wines). If you have a project in mind, we’re happy to help.

Briana is a writer, wanderer, and wonderer (who isn’t always this alliterative). An unshakeable sense of curiosity has led her everywhere from far-flung coastlines to the classrooms of Princeton University. Steadfast in the pursuit of purpose, she is happiest when exploring nature, reading, and putting pen to paper.

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