What Would Betty White Do?

Boomers are intent on enjoying life and searching for a financial institution to help them accomplish their goals.


Marketing efforts targeting members 55 and older sometimes feel as vibrant and innovative as an 8-track tape player. Focusing on savings products such as certificates, money markets, and trust services is no doubt critical to meeting the needs of post-recession Boomers and Seniors, but the products that are most appealing to today’s mature generations are the products that accompany a vibrant, income-oriented lifestyle.

“They’re not just sitting on equity, riding it out,” says Blake Strickland, CEO of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union ($716M, Chattanooga,TN). “They’re out spending the grandkid’s inheritance.”

Today’s mature generations are not spend thrift, but they also don’t focus as much on savings as generations in the past.

“That demographic is as much a borrower today as they ever were,” Strickland says.

He and his staff wanted to inject Tennessee Valley’s Boomer outreach with a bit of excitement, a touch of innovation, and a healthy kick of humor. Already well-known in the community for its events, the credit union discovered a golden opportunity to partner with a local newspaper and co-sponsor the second annual Boomers and Senior’s “Life Expo,” featuring special guest Betty White.

The actress has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts with appearances on Saturday Night Live and a Snicker’s Super Bowl commercial.

“Betty got hot real fast,” says Strickland. Mindful of the opportunity and never the type of institution that was satisfied with just manning a booth, Tennessee Valley sponsored a Betty White look-alike contest. The contest ran on the credit union’s website prior to the event and drew the interest of the Boomer and Senior crowds.

Imitator’s young and old competed for VIP passes to the event, a $100 gift card, and a meet-and-greet photo opportunity with Betty. The contest drew photo applicant’s ranging from Seniors to Gen Y-ers to a cat in a wig; fittingly, though, the contest’s winner had been a member of the credit union since 1955.

Although the expo was geared toward a more mature crowd, it fell on the credit union’s “marketing marathon weekend,” which included Friday tailgating for high school football teams, Saturday semi-pro baseball games (featuring a used car giveaway each inning), and Sunday’s Life Expo. “We had all demographics covered,” Strickland says.

The expo attracted approximately 7,000 people – who all came to see Betty White, assures Strickland. And as the only financial institution at the expo, the credit union strengthened its brand awareness among a concentrated demographic. The credit union gave away DVDs of the Golden Girls TV show and a flat screen TV. It had six to seven attendees around the booth at all times, some already members, some not. Credit union staff talked with attendees and signed them up for services.

Tennessee Valley’s heavy-hitting Boomers expect services such as higher end deposits, but, Strickland advises, do not to let age perceptions limit what you market to an older demographic. For example, mature generations are looking for technology solutions from their primary financial institutions.

“When the home banking craze started, people skewed their marketing toward Gen Y but Boomers use this stuff backward and forward,” Strickland says. “They’re early adopters of technology.”

And according to the New York Times, 1-in-5 businesses created in 2008 were started by individuals older than 55. Many Boomers and Seniors are seeking small business loans and other forms of equity for start-ups and side projects.

“From lawn care to consulting businesses, many retire from one job then go right on to another,” Strickland says. “They’re not sitting at home.”