“Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Stephan Covey
By Samantha Strickland and Nathan Binder
We marketers love to shout messages from the rooftop. Our main job is to break through clutter, and say, “Hear me, hear me!” But one of the easiest pitfalls is shouting the same message to the masses without considering the diversity of eyes, ears, and brains receiving it.
With a little bit of time travel to showcase the uniqueness of the generations you serve, we can help you “seek first to understand” and, ultimately, create messages that will resonate better than ever before.
Traditional marketing is based on life stages: childhood, education, marriage, work, parenthood, retirement, etc. Generational marketing is the marketing strategy of the future; every individual is unique, but the world remains the same.
Generational marketing examines how the events and cultural environment of a time period instill certain characteristics in the people of the epoch. Marketing strategies that recognize generational differences prove more effective because they touch the audience on a deeper level -- the heart and the head.
Be warned, time travel is a risky business, and some nausea may occur. Step into the P.O.D. (Paradox Overcoming Device), and let’s take a trip.
Traveling back to 1925 in 3… 2… 1… BOOM!
Ahh, the Jazz Age. As the true American musical art form develops, flappers and dapper young gents dance their hearts out, pleasantly unaware of the approaching Great Depression.
This is the beginning of the “Silent Generation,” people born from 1925-1942. They were born into the world of the Depression and WWII, fought in Korea and possibly Vietnam.
The financial insecurity preceding their birth means that this is a small, careful generation. Although members of this generation lived through the revolutionary 60s, they chose to focus on their careers rather than activism, earning them their moniker. Their financial sensibility makes them a crucial market for credit unions.
However, since they were raised in a time when the credit union industry was still developing, they are more likely to trust traditional banks with their money. It’s your job to change that. The good news is that credit unions don’t need to revolutionize to attract this market, just fine-tune and highlight pre-existing services.
Market research suggests this generation values the following:
- Long-term care insurance
- Recreational vehicles loans (retirement)
- Reverse mortgages
- Second mortgages
- Shared college savings accounts (grandchildren)
- Investment accounts
- Estate planning
- Loans for travel (for the younger half of this generation)
Now let’s travel forward a bit to one of the most prominent generations in our recent history, one that you might even be a part of: The Baby Boomers.
Traveling to 1960 in 3...2...1… BOOM(ers)!
Wow, that was kind of a rough landing! Probably because it’s the year 1960, and we’ve landed in the middle of a Civil Rights protest. People born in this year, and anytime in the period after WWII to 1964 are defined as Baby Boomers, due to the celebratory post-war rise in birth rate.
Thanks to medical, legislative, and economic advances, this is the wealthiest generation thus far, and they will enjoy a long and healthy retirement. They are also the most socially (and physically) active generation to date, protesting everything from the Vietnam War to consumer manipulation. Although economic downturns (such as the 1970s oil crisis) and unjust wars have left this generation somewhat jaded, they retain their youthful optimism and idealism, making them more likely to trust credit unions over banks.
Boomers grew up in a more convenient and affluent time, and thus value material consumption less than the generation that preceded them, focusing more on rewarding life experiences and personal development. Growing up in a time where peace marches, communes, and equality were the societal focus allows Boomers to understand and appreciate the credit union philosophy.
Boomers’ biggest concern is having enough time and money to enjoy retirement actively, and credit unions can help by offering services like:
- Financial management expertise
- IRAs to save for retirement
- Investment services (Boomers often have their parents estates to worry about as well as their own)
- Payroll savings plans
- Home equity loans and lines of credit (60% of Baby Boomers lost valued investments in economic crises and often need to start a second career. Some get bored in retirement and want to start a new business)
- Recreational vehicle loans (Boomers love to travel)
- Boomers value time and efficiency, but are a little too slow on technology to make use of mobile apps. Instead, they want ATMs and drive-through windows with decent hours of accessibility
It’s time to leave this period of activism and change, to the sons and daughters of the Baby Boomers that resent their parents for the drug culture, economic deficit, and environmental debacles of their time. Meet Generation X.
Traveling to 1975 in 3… 2… 1… BOOM!
With the AIDS epidemic, the explosion of the Challenger, the Gulf War, and school shootings abound, it’s easy to understand the cynicism of Gen X.
Gen Xers believe the Social Security Administration will go broke paying pensions to Boomers, and because of the Boomer tendency to spend and live big, they believe they will inherit little from their parents’ generation.
Gen Xers are viewed as a philosophically lost generation of slackers and latchkey kids searching for meaning in life. While this is somewhat true, their lack of reliance on the previous generation has motivated Gen Xers to become hard workers, entrepreneurs, and careful financial planners. Gen Xers put career first, and wait longer to marry and have children. They save for retirement, but consume technology like no generation before them.
Sixty-five percent of Gen Xers went to college, as opposed to the 45% of the Boomer generation. Gen Xers crave information, and associate it with power. They are rarely loyal to any brand, which prevents a challenge to credit unions reliant on member loyalty.
Credit unions must customize their services to appeal to a generation accustomed to comparison shopping. Services valued by Gen Xers include:
- Intuitive and attractive web page
- Email/Text newsletters and alerts
- Mobile App
- Home financial services, need to control money on the go
- Kiosks that take loan applications; convenience is everything.
- Online bill pay
- Lines of credit and student loans
- Gen Xers are more than twice as likely to have stocks, mutual funds, and cash value life insurance as they are to have CDs.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reliving the past, because it’s time to go back home, to the scary world run by… THE MILLENNIALS
Traveling to 2014 in 3… 2… 1… BOOM!
Aaaaand we’re back. It’s a good thing too, because the DeLorean engine in the P.O.D. is starting to give us some trouble.
The most prominent generation of our time is the Millennials. They were born in the late 80s to the late 90s. It’s a common tendency for the problems of the world to be blamed on the current generation by the past generation (and vice versa), and the Millennials are no stranger to the ridicule of their elders, as being a lazy, morally corrupt, and self-interested. This is generally false, and the Millennial generation have made great strides in technology, medicine, and social awareness.
They are the most liberal generation, and the most steeped in technology. They’ve been computer savvy since near infancy, so marketing to Millennials needs to be even more innovative and tech-based than marketing to Gen Xers. They are competitive, and nearly equal in idealism and cynicism.
More than anything, they value convenience, and here’s what they’ll dig:
- Impressive website with lots of options
- Mobile Apps
- Financial Counseling (Millennials often don’t know what to do with their money)
- Student Loans (most educated generation)
- Lines of credit (high unemployment)
- Modern management and facilities (to bridge generational gap)
- No special treatment for families (less likely to marry and have kids)
- Mobile banking and use of NFC-technology (read more about that here)
With all this information we’ve gathered during our time travels, you now have the power to understand the generational differences between the markets your credit union serves and connect with your members and potential members in a whole new way.
Samantha Strickland is CEO and Nathan Binder a copywriter with The Pod, a Tallahassee-based advertising and branding agency. For more info: www.thepodadvertising.com.