Flaming Computers, Orange Balls, and Savings Accounts

Gen Y is looking for something unique. And when we say “looking,” we really mean looking.


What does your savings account look like? Could I look at your checking accounts and distinguish them from other checking accounts?

What if I were to say, "What child's toy most closely resembles your Share Certificates?" I imagine you would have a question for me: "Huh?" ("What are you talking about?" is also an acceptable response.)

We live in a world of graphics, pictures, and images. For Gen Y, we’ve never known anything else. We've grown up in an age of visual stimulation, and now something must have a visual impact if it’s going to leave any kind of lasting imprint. You probably weren’t even going to continue reading this article until you saw pictures...admit it.

Our analysis of this phenomenon will take us first to the world of retail. More specifically, computers. Let's take a look at three examples.

First is the HP Pavilion (which will serve as our control). Second is the Dell XPS Renegade. Marketed to computer gamers, the addition of flames creates a very unique look. Anyone in the market for a gaming computer will not likely confuse a Renegade with any other computer on the market. Third is the iMac. The sleek design and purist coloring scheme communicate Apple's philosophy of the simple, user-friendly computer. Clear visual elements to each of these computers brand the look of the product to visually distinguish it from similar products.

Of course, these computers all have the benefit of actually existing in the sense that you can see and touch them. Financial services do not have that luxury. When people are thinking of the financial sector, they must do so conceptually and not sensually. You can’t surf the web on your savings account; you can't pick it up and put it in a box; you can't listen to your favorite songs on it.

Retailers like computer manufacturers have gotten extremely skillful at gleaning what it is that a consumer wants and then customizing their image to fit that need. In a world filled with visual stimuli, Gen Y has become predisposed to visual media and has gotten very good at taking signals from retailers’ visual identifiers to make quick decisions regarding researching and purchasing consumer goods.

However, if financial services don't tangibly exist, how can they engage in the same interplay as retailers when communicating with Gen Y? Let's ask our introductory question again, but this time to ING Direct: "What does your saving account look like?" They have an answer all ready for us: an orange ball.

Granted, an orange ball isn't as cool as a flaming computer, but it accomplishes the same effect. Don't believe me? Compare the visual imprint of the ING Orange Savings Account to another savings account of your choice. Just close your eyes and think...I’ll wait here.

Done? Best case scenario: you've come up with another savings account with an even stronger visual identifier. More likely, you are still just thinking about ING. Either way, the point still stands.

ING is prolific with their use of the orange ball. Its association remains strongest with the Orange Savings, mostly due to it being considered their flagship product, but overuse of the ball runs the risk of becoming an ING brand instead of a visual product identifier. The orange ball appears on pamphlets, websites, newspapers, magazines. They use it as a running visual theme throughout their website.

Side note: when preparing this article, I was explaining to my girlfriend the visual nature of retail products. Then I mentioned an orange ball as a lead in to the next part of my article, and on cue she responded, "That reminds me of ING."

There are some simple ways you can apply the lessons of retail and ING to your credit union. Let's take an imaginary credit union whose primary SEG is service men and women. They are launching a campaign for their new savings account that features great rates and additional incentives to save. They would then select an icon or image that best represents both their SEG and their new service, maybe something like a porcelain eagle with a slot in its back for coins (representing a piggy bank of sorts). The icon would then appear in conjunction with digital and physical mailings, marketing, and advertising for the new savings account. Also, the icon would appear next to a link to "Open a new Eagle Savings Account" on the front of their website. This integration of service and image strongly reinforces the message you are trying to communicate about your new products and services.

When all is said and done, there are really three things I want you to takeaway from this:

•  Credit unions are in constant competition, not just with other financial institutions concerning services, but with the market at large. Credit unions are competing for Gen Y's attention
•  Consider your services from every angle. You probably didn't think about what your services look like. What else might you be missing?
•  The retail market has a long standing relationship with Gen Y and has done a ton of research on how to reach them. There's no need to reinvent the wheel.

I sincerely encourage you to comment at the bottom of the page. What unique measures are you taking to attract Gen Y? I and other readers are interested in hearing your thoughts on the topic.

I would also encourage you to continue your research. Try starting with these two articles: Does Gen Y love your website? and Be the B"EST" at Competing for Gen Y. Better yet, if you think we’re on to something here, join two of my Gen Y colleagues (Dane Coalson and Lydia Cole) and me for our upcoming webinar Thinking Retail: 15 New Strategies to Reach Gen Y.

If you have any additional questions or comments, feel free to email me at ekashner@creditunions.com.




Aug. 18, 2008


  • Ben brings up several excellent examples! If you are interested in learning about Young & Free, you should also check out is predecessor, Young & Free Alberta. TDECU''s initiative is based on Common Wealth CU''s campaign, which has already selected their "spokester."
    Elliott Kashner
  • Good way to get more readers - I would have continued without the pictures because I love words - and the topic is what draws me in. Admittedly, I am older by far than Gen Y - but that''s not the point. Excellent use of illustration and association. Also, I read the other articles earlier when posted. Including the list of 50 ''best'' websites in the one article was perfect! If you have not read it, go to the article ''Does Gen Y Love your Website, click on that link and read the ''reasons'' those listed websites are so great!
  • Great post Elliott! As additional good examples of "tangible" financial services, I suggest: TDECU''s new Young & Free initiative: PNC''s Virtual Wallet Amplify FCU''s retail locations: (The software won''t let me post links, but you can google these terms for the right idea)
    Ben Rogers