Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: gen z

Millennials (And More) In A Time Machine

Originally published on

Market to Millenials! Market to Gen Z! Are we repeating what has been done time and again?

We tend to look at generations as a snapshot in time. Let me explain: The oldest Gen Z (or whatever we call those youngsters with no knowledge of pre-Internet days) is not more than 20 or so, at the most. Millenials are in their 20s to mid-30s. Gen Xers are what we would call middle age. Boomers are close to or enjoying retirement (or lifelong work). Their parents are focused on the “golden years”, as we would say.

But what if we looked at them all from the same perspective, at the same point in time for each?

Let’s take a Millenial, Gen Z, Boomer, and Gen X and put them in a room together. The catch: They are all 25. Ok, we’ll say the room is bigger on the inside to address any temporal crises this may cause. So we have a gathering of identically-aged people, yet they are each from a different generation. The Boomer’s “present” is 1975, the Gen X is living in 1995, our Millenial is from this era, while the Gen Z representative has been plucked from 2025. Once we get over those awesome pants the Boomer is wearing, it’s down to business.

We could imagine asking them the same questions posed in publications today. “What can a financial institution do to appeal to your generation better?” “What are you looking for in a banking experience?” “Does feedback from friends and family influence your decisions, and in what way?”

Leave the social media, mobile banking, and other technology-based solutions on the table. These are tools, not strategies. Focus on the responses, the emotional aspect of decision-making. I wouldn’t be surprised if their answers are similar. Yes, feedback from friends is important (despite needing to actually call, write, or visit for some of our time-travelers). Having a safe and secure experience is essential (whether it be chip cards and a secure mobile app or a branch representative who respects your privacy). Appealing to all of them would be based in education, convenience, cost, and service. For me, a great customer service experience is #1 when choosing a business. Would anyone argue this has changed? Whether I’m corresponding by Pony Express or being guided through FaceTime, I expect top-notch service that respects me as a member.

We put a lot of time and effort into learning what it takes to appeal to the latest generation. I agree this is important. However, why reinvent the wheel, so to speak, if this task has been done time and again? How did you appeal to 25 year-olds 25 years ago? 50? I’d be willing to bet the fundamentals are unchanged. It’s just the means.

This sounds like a conversation for your upcoming board meeting. Ask your long-serving members to think back. Dig into the archives and pull up marketing plans from 1975 (or further!). What can you learn from this exercise? Have you been appealing to Millenials all along?

Hey, what’s old is new. NES Classic, Pokemon GO…even Tamagotchi has an app. Take your own old. It may just work great in today’s world.

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It’s A Party, But Who’s Invited?

Originally published on

Is your social media presence harming your image? More at 11.

Oh yes, folks. We’re talking social media. Again. In more than 140 characters. That’s a Twitter reference for those of you preferring to communicate in more traditional methods. A practice which, sadly, appears to be gaining more aspects of “web-speak” every day. No I will not abandon my capitalized letters and appropriate use of a semicolon!

Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, social media and its potential impacts on your credit union.

When it comes to communicating with your members on account information, what’s your preferred method? Phone, in-person, e-mail, or traditional mail? Like Luke in Return of the Jedi, you may not be aware that…”there is another (Skywalker).” Social media can be an alternative for those who prefer it. I’m not suggesting you handle money transfers and loan applications through Twitter (yet, seriously), but there are a number of markets taking advantage of the technology. One which has done an incredible job is the airline industry. Consider this: I was on a JetBlue flight with WiFi and tweeted that my seat’s headphone jack didn’t work. As a result, I could not watch the in-flight TV or listen to SiriusXM. Within a minute, their official support account answered me and asked to continue the conversation in a DM (Direct Message: a private chat, similar to a text message). I obliged and was then prompted by the agent to provide my name and confirmation number. After a few minute exchange (while still sitting in the seat, mind you), they issued a courtesy credit for the inconvenience on my account. Resolved at 35,000 feet.

Another time, and this one pains me to admit, I had issues with my Comcast internet service. I tweeted as such, @ mentioning Comcast (using LTE mobile data when needed). Within a matter of minutes, an agent from their official support account got in touch. They too DMed me requesting my account #. “Woah!” you say. Yes, they deem the Direct Message feature of Twitter to be secure enough to transfer most customer information (most social media platforms also use a Verified Account badge to ensure you’re communicating with the “real thing”). After a few messages back and forth, they identified the issue and resolved it. Do you realize what that meant? I didn’t have to be on the phone with them at all!

I enjoy reading tweets from many credit unions. If you’re one of them, congratulations for sharing valuable information with your members and the world at large. If you haven’t yet joined, that’s ok. You’re not alone. And when you’re ready, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to go at it in the best way possible!

But as much as it can help your institution, there are risks involved. We’re not talking poor underwriting standards causing an implosion of your debt ratios. We’re talking something far more important…your image (social media is much like Hollywood in that respect). Whether you decide to go in-house or a 3rd-party, the rules are the same. Most of the best practices involve just being rational. Don’t share private member information, don’t post things which can be interpreted as insulting, etc. If you wouldn’t send it to your mom, don’t hit Tweet.

Of course, there’s always the risk at being caught up in something which has errors you missed. For example, a few weeks ago, a tweet was shared by Co-Op Credit Unions (@innovatebanking) discussing strategies to increase your savings. Seems to fit, right? Unfortunately, their tweet (since corrected) read, “How to save $100,000 in a year. (link to article)” Wow! I need to know this…now! Not surprisingly, the post was incorrect. Rather, the link described ways the average American can save $10,000 in a year. “What’s an extra 0?” As a financial institution, you should know the answer to that question…a mistake you cannot make. The craziest part? This tweet has 18 retweets (users who shared it to their followers) and 14 likes, yet my reply was the only one calling out the error. Please never be “that guy (or gal)” who retweets or likes something with such blatant errors! It can tarnish your own brand. How? Consider it from your member’s perspective: “How can I believe the claims my credit union makes when they didn’t even bother to check an obvious number error in something they shared, ie. represented as their own?

UPDATE: Co-Op Credit Unions has issued a corrected tweet, fixing the typo. And this is what makes all the difference, because…Generation Z (your youngest and future members) see social media as a way of getting information, not just a tool to communicate with friends. If your information is wrong, how will they regard your ability to help their financial situation?

UPDATE 2: It happened again. During today’s #NCUAChat (great Twitter discussion), the NCUA (under their username @MyCUgov) shared a graphic with 3 tips for financial safety online. A good thing. Except their graphic was so riddled with typos, spelling errors, and bad information that it could be deemed more harmful than good. Unless they were aiming to be ironic – “See, this is the kind of thing we want members to look out for!” Though government agencies aren’t often ironic. And, surprise! Many wonderful people and groups shared it to their own followers. Did anyone read it first? (Probably not…a previous post discusses how liking or sharing something means you’re less likely to read it) Once again, don’t be those people! Share with care!

So, a review:

  • Social media is now being used as an effective customer support tool for industries with some of the poorest records in the category. Yet they make it work. How is your credit union embracing this new opportunity? Perhaps a mention of the strategy during longer hold times or on your support/contact page. What do you need to do to balance security requirements with member convenience?
  • A new outreach venue offers massive opportunities, but can also hide unique risks. Is your in-house or outsourced team on the same page, aware of credit union strategy (yes, include them in your planning meetings)? Are they trained to catch typos and other errors, politely pointing them out or editing after discovered?

Your social media feed is unlikely to be featured on the 11 o’clock news, but, if it is (congratulations to your marketing team), make sure it’s for the reasons you want!

Millenials, Kids, and Those “Old” People (Part 3)

To get the full experience, please read the first two parts of this series on credit union technology offerings. We began with Are You A Dumb Pipe? and migrated to Want Tomorrow’s Tech? Team Up! Each serves as a standalone story, but together, you’ll learn much more.

Technology. For me, it’s a realm of excitement, progress, and new settings (I get far too excited fiddling with options…uncontrollably so if there are physical switches). Others may cringe upon hearing the word. “Oh no, something else to learn. Just as I was getting used to the current system.”

How you feel trends with your age. Younger people are more encouraged by “new”, while older generations prefer “consistent, stable, predictable.” Of course there are the exceptions, the little old lady (from Pasadena) using every piece of technology with seamless understanding, the 20-something who avoids smartphones like the plague. However, in general, younger means “high tech.” A survey from 2014 found Millenials/Gen Y were the largest segment of smartphone users, while Baby Boomer and older individuals (as a group) shied away. Adoption is growing in all age ranges, but that may be a result of device availability (find me a quality non-smartphone) and late-adopters (“I guess it’s worth a try”) rather than desire.

Young people use new stuff. Old people prefer old stuff. Might you be thinking, “Where’s the credit union connection? And who are you calling old?”

There’s more. Millenials are fine and dandy, but guess what? A new generation is upon you. Fresh out of, well, middle school, the eldest of Generation Z, the Digital Generation, or even iGeneration (they’re so new to planning we haven’t even settled on a ridiculous name for them yet), are planting their flag in the world. Kids born in the late 90s and early 2000s are now old enough to drive, vote, and make their own financial decisions. I’m sure they’re just like the Millenials. Only they aren’t.

While Millenials/Gen Yers (like myself) grew up with amazing technology, we knew a world without it. I twirled the springy phone cord while talking to middle school friends, had a computer which never went online, and made my own mix tapes. Members of Gen Z never knew a world without the Web, with the younger side seeing iPhones, wifi, and Amazon as eternal constants. Think Millenials are quick to adopt new technologies? This crowd jumps to the latest thing before you even knew it existed! Example: SnapChat. Nearly half of UK kids aged 11-16 use the service at least weekly (similar in US). Do you?

I enjoy learning about our youngest generation through, where else? YouTube. One applicable video series is called Kids React (besides making anyone feel old, it’s also a lot of fun). The producers place staples of the “past” in the hands of kids aged 5-14. Then they film what happens. Take this one about a rotary phone. Notice what is intuitive to them…and it isn’t dialing, nor is it picking up the handset first. How we do things, minor and major alike, have changed greatly in a short span of time. Yet some of those kids enjoy the old-school experience. Given the opportunity, they’re happy transitioning from old to new, and to the next thing, with nary a blink. Imagine yourself going from rotary to an iPhone; would it be as painless as their understanding?

With immediate comfort in a new system, they’re eager to grab the newest and best available. Let me offer a translation: Not sticking with your credit union if the tech cannot keep up.

How can your credit union plan for a future of engaging these types of people without scaring off your lifetime loyalists? By doing what you’re best at: Serving your members no matter how they want to engage!

The previous part of this series discussed a number of services built as add-ons to your core capabilities. They never replaced the traditional approach. In fact, you can support Apple Pay, offer the Ctrl card security app, provide PopMoney…and a member can choose to use none. Maybe they’re uncomfortable with the new technologies, or just want a human touch. They can walk into a branch every week, talk to a helpful member service representative, and manage their deposits or  withdrawals on paper. Good thing 54% of Millenials also like having in-person conversations when they need banking help. And those Gen Zers? This line struck me from a study on their preferences: “Millennials and Gen X look at social media as a way to connect with friends. iGen sees social media as a way to receive information.” So maybe you won’t see them, but you’ll see their posts and tweets. Since you’re already embracing social media as a member-engagement platform, this should be easy to handle…right?

At the end of the day, people are people, no matter their age. They crave community. So the medium and strategy changed…and? You’re a credit union: Where else can someone gain honest interaction with others and inclusion in a cause they are proud to share?

Technology will evolve. Preferences will change. Will you become A Dumb Pipe, going it solo instead of Teaming Up for Tomorrow’s Tech, and lose out on the future generations? Or, will your credit union build upon the best of what’s available, while preserving the spirit of what spurred your formation so many years ago?

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