Some social media genius at JPMorgan Chase sent out a tweet last week that created backlash for the big bank and a “get off my lawn” moment for this Baby Boomer.
In this case, the “lawn” is where the millennials and before them, Gen Xers, in my life and career grew up under my watchful, anxious eyes as a parent and as a colleague and mentor (but only when asked) in the past few decades.
The tweet was a lame attempt to poke at millennials’ spending habits and went like this: “You: why is my balance so low. Bank account: make coffee at home. Bank account: eat the food that’s already in the fridge. Bank account: you don’t need a cab, it’s only three blocks. You: I guess we’ll never know. Bank account: seriously?”
Chase's original tweet caught swift Internet blacklash.
American Banker provided this reporting on the backlash from the tweet, which the big bank soon replaced with something more banal. A lot of the comments were around big bank bailouts, etc., but my reaction is more visceral: Wow, what a stupid tweet.
Besides being incredibly tone deaf about many people’s income and circumstances, it's a gross generalization about millennials. As a boomer parent of that generation, I’m so tired of hearing that.
Besides the fallacy of attributing set characteristics to an entire class of people defined by something as arbitrary as age, it’s prejudiced stereotyping, and for professional communicators, intellectually lazy.
Indulge me a brag. My daughter’s a millennial, got her PhD at 28 and her license to practice clinical psychology at 29, without a dime of student debt and little help from her parents beyond a used car when she graduated from high school.
Her husband is an Army veteran and six-year cop who undergoes rigorous training all the time and risks his life daily. I work with a bunch of super-bright, hard-working 20-somethings and know a bunch more.
Most are doing fine, and making the most of their opportunities, but even they face a much tougher work and lifestyle/income environment than I did at their age. Most millennials do (as I fall into a generalization I’m comfortable making here).
There’s all this talk now about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” There hardly ain’t any boots anymore, especially not for people who can’t afford college or other training needed for careers that can support a lifestyle we would call middle class or the American Dream. Life just costs more.
When I was a kid … I’d argue things were actually much easier. I graduated from high school in 1974, the son of schoolteacher parents who put three children through state universities without incurring any debt of which I’m aware. My tuition at Kent State University, if memory serves, was about $280 a quarter and like many of my classmates, I had a scholarship that defrayed some of that.
I recognize that I was blessed to not have to work my way through school. I did work, but at internships and weekly newspapers and things relevant to my looming career.
I didn’t have to pay my own tuition or rent. Students who did? Typically, they could actually make enough money from the jobs available to them to either pay their whole way or come pretty close to it.
Just try going to college now on a part-time job like that, without incurring a ton of debt that you’ll carry for years to come. And then establish yourself after school. My first job out of school paid a resounding $150 a week, but that was one month’s rent.
I lived in small-town Ohio, and I know things were cheaper then, but real wages have not even come close to keeping up with living expenses for far too many working people, regardless of collar color. I live in Columbia, SC, now, where a one-bedroom apartment averages $870 a month and the average minimum-wage worker would have to put in 80 or so hours a week to afford it.
But enough about me. Back to that bank tweet. Presumably an operation like JPMorgan Chase is able to hire the savviest, most plugged-in social media experts out there and equip them with the best of research and communication tools.
How can they be so tone deaf? I’m not sure what the lesson here is for credit unions, except to think hard about your audience, get to know them personally, don't assume you know what's best for them because you know their age, and then think twice before you hit “send”.
Not down for that? Then maybe it's time to get off our lawn.