Marketing Across the Generation Gap

Boomers and Gen Xers respond differently to marketing campaigns, but since these two generations make up the majority of credit union membership, it’s important to identify and capitalize on their differences.


It's no secret. Credit unions today face challenges in marketing to members and potential members across the entire age spectrum. To counter this, your credit union must effectively use marketing resources to appropriately target these prominent but completely different generations.

For example, those who call themselves baby boomers may respond differently to a marketing campaign than those within Generation X. More so, the same message may lose or offend one generation or the other. Because these two generations make up the majority of credit union membership, it's important to identify and capitalize on their differences.

Marketing to these two generations

Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They came into the world as the U.S. experienced rapid growth and grew up in prosperous times. Boomers believe in expansion and tend toward optimism.

Generation X followed, spanning the population born between 1965 and 1980. This generation formed its view of the world in the post-Vietnam/Watergate era. A struggling economy and tripling divorce rates made Xers self-reliant and independent. They prefer informality and take a casual, often skeptical approach to authority. Xers also embrace new technology and demonstrate greater technical proficiency than their predecessors.

Many marketers believe consumers determine which brands they prefer by age 40. While that might prove true for past generations, today's over-50 population is just as likely to try something new. This flexibility stems from the fact that boomers came of age in the 1960s culture of unlimited possibility making this group highly unpredictable.

On the flip side, Xers want it all. They place tremendous value on relationships and customer service, which drives loyalty. They are media savvy and won't be lured by advertising hype. Because they place a strong emphasis on lifestyle and quality leisure time, they also need business to be convenient.

The technology factor

Common knowledge says Xers can operate computers and navigate the Internet just as easily as they can drive a car. However, credit unions should never assume. So how do you gauge your members' technical skills? Ask them, whether it's in person as they visit the credit union or via member surveys.

You can incorporate this information into your marketing plans. Should you find out most of your baby boomers are technologically savvy, consider expanding your online marketing services. Should basic technology skills come as a challenge to these members, try offering a free training class on how to navigate and make the most of your credit union Web site.

Because younger members tend to embrace technology, consider developing and offering them financial education tools and podcasts about home buying or auto-lending. These tactics can enable you to create valued connections with this audience.

Finding common ground

With marketing resources at a premium, it's important to look for areas of commonality between the two populations. While Xers are the most highly educated among generations, boomers like to be well-informed. A wide variety and availability of financing options matter to both groups. More importantly, both groups want business to be about an experience not just a transaction. For example, Enterprise Car Sales focuses on providing your members the best auto buying experience and actively measures member satisfaction to ensure so.

One way to give members across these generations an ongoing, feel-good experience is to support them as they make large purchases. For example, develop strong relationships with real estate agents who you can refer members to, whether members seek a first home or a retirement home. Partner with agents who conduct business with the same values as you; the same is true for auto partners. Develop trusted partnerships with local car dealers who will not only take care of your members during and after the sale, but also with dealers who will refer members back to you for financing. Enterprise guarantees their credit union partners will receive 100% of the loans from members the credit union refers.

You have what it takes

Your credit union probably possesses a number of marketing tools to help current and future members reach their financial goals. Be sure you strategically choose how you can make the most of these resources in targeting and communicating with specific member populations. And, remember to be creative because the opportunity to market to Generation Y is just around the corner!

Enterprise Car Sales has helped to successfully increase auto loan volume for more than 1,000 credit union partners. Visit for more information on how your credit union can partner with Enterprise to create market campaigns across all generations and increase auto loans.



This sponsored content article is provided to the credit union community for shared insights and knowledge from a recognized solutions provider in the industry. Please note that the views and opinions offered here do not reflect those of Callahan & Associates, and Callahan does not endorse vendors or the solutions they offer.

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Nov. 5, 2007


  • I don''t appreciate the single-vendor endorsement.