The Importance of Generational Marketing

Discover the generational makeup of members to understand what makes them tick and better market to their priorities.


Credit union members span the range of generations from children to seniors and everything in between. Each demographic represents a different opportunity for the credit union ─ from grooming tomorrow’s most loyal members to the careful handling of current high-value, long-term members. Practicing generational marketing will allow diverse institutions to maximize the value of each of their demographic segments.

Generational marketing simply means understanding that each generation has its own characteristics driven by their experiences, values, and beliefs. These characteristics lead to idiosyncratic personalities that govern the behaviors of the segment. Once you’ve unlocked what makes each segment tick, you’ll be able to effectively target them with appropriate products and services.

With such a wide span of generations, it can be challenging for credit unions to provide and maintain the range of services each segment responds to. For example, the youngest members, often called Generation Z, will probably never carry a checkbook and instead expect to be able to conduct their financial business entirely online. High-net worth seniors, on the other hand, expect personalized, high-touch service and prefer to conduct their business in a branch.

It is natural for credit unions to focus most of their attention and resources on today’s high-value members. However, it is equally important to think long-term and recognize the future potential of your young members. For example, while today’s seniors control the lion’s share of deposits, the future earnings of Generations X, Y, and Z cannot be ignored. It is essential to begin building relationships with these younger generations now in order to fully imprint the brand within the minds of these groups, as people are especially sentimental about business relationships they form when young. If credit unions can get into the hearts and minds of these generations – and keep pace with their expectations – they can ensure their position as the first place members will look to support any major financial life events.

While the underlying principle of generational marketing is easy to grasp, gaining access to information about what each segment responds to and analyzing an institution’s specific member-base are the tricky parts. There is a wealth of demographic research available for free and for purchase ─ both online and from consultants, but understanding the generational makeup of your own member base is best done using a Marketing Customer Information File (MCIF).

The MCIF allows you to view information in a way that no other system in the credit union can – at the member level, and including all core and third-party relationships. Other information and data, such as demographics, financial segmentation, and profitability combine to paint a holistic picture of behavioral and lifestyle attributes. Once a credit union has completed a thorough profile of its generational member segments, it can begin to plan strategies that maximize the value of each group now and into the future. 

While it is nearly impossible to be all things to all people, understanding members’ current and projected contribution to the health and strength of the institution will enable credit unions to provide a balance of products and services targeted to each group, planting the seeds of success for many years to come.

Chris Braccia serves as director of product management at Harland Financial Solutions, a leading provider of software and services to more than 6,000 financial institutions of all sizes.



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