Move over Baby Boomers. Gen Y Comes with High Speed.

Move over Baby Boomers. There are 79 million members of Generation Y heading at high speed toward financial services. That’s good news for credit unions!




This best of 2007 article originally ran on October 8, 2007.

Move over Baby Boomers. Way over. There are 79 million members of Generation Y, aged 12-30, heading at high speed toward financial services. To them, TV and newspapers are out, blogs are in. Podcasts and streaming online video are in. Email? No way. Replaced by instant and text messaging.

Gen Y will have a profound influence on the development and marketing of financial services. And just as Gen Y is connected to each other, the financial services industry must connect to them, too. But that’s not so easy. Because Gen Y has grown up in an age of aggressive, sophisticated marketing, they begin recognizing brands at age 12 and form preferences as early as 14. Research indicates that Gen Y is especially weary of traditional marketing and advertising—instead preferring a more subtle, entertainment-based brand message. To them, a softer sell is preferred over “slick” and “overly produced” ads.

Therefore, in addition to appropriate branding, appealing to Gen Y requires a deeper understanding of how they use the Internet and digital communications. In many ways, Gen Y is defined by Web 2.0, which in part represents an evolution of the Web and Web sites from one-dimensional, one-way communication to open source, two-way sharing. Gen Y also views the Internet as a means to form relationships with people and institutions. They strongly prefer social media forums that facilitate and promote the sharing of opinions, insights and experiences with other Web users.

User-generated content preferred

Their preference for user-generated content (text, video, images and audio created by Web users themselves) has created widespread popularity for blogs (online journals) and other social media such as message boards and podcasts. This generation is not satisfied with just reading online information, they expect media tools that allow them to publish their opinions, insights and experiences with other users.

One way to reach this audience is through viral marketing—the spreading of marketing messages through social networks by providing users with compelling offers, content or experiences that they can share with others.

What does all this mean for credit unions? Financial institutions need to develop specific brand and marketing campaigns designed for the Gen Y audience. These campaigns must have the subtle branding and edgy look preferred by youth and young adults and effectively utilize social media outlets.

Attracting Gen Y is worth the investment

As the nation’s largest CUSO, PSCU Financial Services has developed a comprehensive communication campaign called Project New Age to help its member credit unions understand what young adults expect from their financial institutions. Project New Age describes the unique needs of this generation; the marketing and advertising formats that will reach them; and a product strategy focusing on each stage of this generation’s journey to adulthood. The cooperative has already launched a series of Gen Y webinars that explore and define blogs, viral marketing, social networking outlets, and the power of Myspace. It is also underwriting a Filene Research Initiative of 30 under 30 that provides additional information about attracting and retaining Gen Y members.

Gen Y and credit unions—a perfect match

The good news: The values of Gen Y are a perfect match for the mission of the credit union industry. These young adults value corporate responsibility and prefer brands known for involvement with not-for-profit causes and community activism. They therefore favor smaller, local institutions that offer personal attention over large national corporations with multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns. Does this sound like a match made in heaven? We think so, but it’s going to take some time and work to create a relationship with this ad-weary, media-savvy generation.

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Dec. 31, 2007


  • I agree that Gen Y and credit unions are a good match for the rasons statd in the article. Blogging and text messaging can reach them. But reaching a new, young customer and converting them to a member requires attracting them -- and keeping them -- with the right services and features they need iin this "wiired" generation.
    Gary Mueller