Member Age Can Define The Payments Message

Customize outreach and marketing for various products across multiple generations.




Credit unions can take the opportunity to analyze and understand the characteristics of members based on specific generational categories to achieve more success in their marketing of payment services.    

Most credit unions have a huge population of members between the age of 51 and 68 as well as a smaller group of members age 30 to 50. In addition to these groups, marketing teams also face the challenge of speaking to totally new members between the ages of 8 to 29, who have made technology and social media their standard way of doing business.

Markets Define The Message

The specific dates associated with each generation vary according to the source referenced, but the most popularly accepted divisions were created by William Strauss and Neil Howe, two leading U.S. demographers. Instead of just using birth dates, they also considered dates associated with phases of societal change to create their categories. This includes groups with attitudes and values that differ from what other generations experienced during the same phase. Strauss and Howe’s generational divisions are grouped as follows:

  • Matures — Born between 1925 and 1942.  There are currently an estimated 27 million Matures. 
  • Baby Boomers — Born between 1943 and 1960. There are currently 64 million Baby Boomers.
  • Generation X ─ Born between 1961 and 1981.  There are currently about 89 million Gen X individuals.
  • Generation Y — Born between 1982 and 2003.  There are currently approximately 80 million Gen Y individuals.

Recommended Payments Marketing For Each Generation

Multi-generational marketing is now defined in the Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business as “the practice of appealing to the unique needs and behaviors of individuals within more than one specific generational group, with a generation being a group of individuals born and living about the same time.”

The attitudes of a collective generation, especially experiences that happened during their formative years, determine how each group might react to a specific payment product or message.  Credit unions are tasked with finding a way to be all things to all members, but in order to meet the needs of all groups at the same time, it is important to first understand the traits and characteristics of each individually.

Marketing Simple And Straightforward Payments

As a result of wars, economic strife, and other traumatic events during their lifetime, Matures they tend to be much more conservative when it comes to financial services other groups. They are concerned about their health, financial security, and the distribution of their valued belongings. Most of the Mature generation still prefers one-on-one communication, and they still love receiving information from their credit union in printed form that is easy to read.

This is the most traditional member segment within your credit union.  So paper statements for credit card and share draft accounts are preferred.  Simplicity is a must when introducing new payment products such as gift cards, so consider investing additional resources in demonstrating how the payment type will work and what it can be used for. 

Marketing Cool And Beneficial Payments

The attitudes and lifestyles of most Baby Boomers were shaped during the sixties, leading to this generation sometimes being called self-indulgent. They are aging, but they still have a quest for knowledge and pride themselves on continual intellectual growth. They love travel and new experiences and they spend more money on technology than any other demographic, according to Forrester Research’s annual State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark Data Report.  

Baby Boomers are perfect targets for cross-selling payment services because they want to maximize their time and money. Since they are open to new technology and multiple products, prepaid products such as gift cards can be a perfect fit.  For credit or debit cards, consider mobile rewards or contactless payment methods.   These types of functionality with clear-cut benefits will wow Baby Boomers.

Marketing Personal And Easy Payments

Generation X knows that knowledge is power, so the Internet, mobile devices, and social media are integral parts of their lives. Any payment option that integrates with these communication vehicles will be popular with this demographic.

Gen X also knows how to quickly digest information, so consider a straightforward approach with any payment product offerings.  For example, if you are marketing a rewards credit card, include specifics of the reward earning and redemption schedule and provide a wide array of reward options.  If you add contactless payments to your credit or debit program, identify locations where the new technology can be used.

Marketing Unique And Integrated Payments

Around 80 million children were born between 1982 and 2003, comprising one of the largest generations in U.S. history.

Gen Y is the perfect target for integrated campaigns through across multiple avenues because they have grown up in a world where multitasking is the status quo. Mobile payments and coupons are great payment products to market to Generation Y.  Credit unions should also use social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube to announce new, unique products and attract Gen Y members.

Forming Your Strategy

Understanding the various payment channels and marketing strategies that are appropriate for each generation is a daunting task. But credit unions can follow a few easy steps to get started:

  1. Understand the current member database by generation segment to get a clear picture of the different groups within the credit union
  2. Look at different generational divisions for growth opportunities by product and plan marketing activities that address the traits of those groups. 
  3. Be flexible enough to provide information in a variety of ways so every member has the opportunity to access that information in their own way.  For example, if a credit union is promoting credit cards, they should consider marketing via direct mail, Facebook, their website, and in branch to meet the different communication channels of members. 
  4. Develop an overall branding strategy that allows for a universal message, but look at ways that it can be easily customized for  different audiences and marketing channels.

Kevin O’Donnell is vice president of credit issuance for Discover Network, a business unit of Discover Financial Services. Mr. O’Donnell leads a team who oversee the relationships with Discover Network’s credit issuing partners as well as business development activities with direct credit issuers, co-brand programs and aggregators.

Mr. O’Donnell holds a Masters degree from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor degree from Niagara University. He can be reached at




Oct. 15, 2012


  • It is so important for credit unions to know their market and what compiles their credit union membership-thank you for posting this.