3 Marketing Tactics for Credit Unions to Win Over Millennials

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

Credit unions are doing worse with Millennials than any other generation, as this banking target market has flocked to fintech-driven mobile finance experiences that prioritize faceless convenience over the advantages of credit unions. But this disconnect is not the way it has to be.

Credit unions offer a better deal for Millennials than any other financial institution, but to win them over, your marketing must embody and convey those advantages.

The disconnect is a customer experience issue, but it’s not one that can be fixed by just improving customer service. You need to help these potential customers see what your brand represents throughout the lead generation process. If you amplify personalized direct mail with targeted digital marketing, you create an optichannel marketing experience that shows younger audiences you are both relevant to their world and able to deliver the individualized, convenient banking experience they’re looking for.

To attract digitally savvy, convenience-centric banking customers, credit unions must be able to deliver marketing that accomplishes three things at once:

  1. Convey a better customer experience
  2. Embrace technology and convenience
  3. Make a personal connection

1. Convey a Better Credit Union Customer Experience

This is the first taste these Millennials will have of your brand, so it’s important to show why it’s worth their time to bank with you. How does this marketing experience convey the things that will give them a great experience as customers? Is it relevant to what they’re interested in? Is it convenient? Is it personal?

Beyond the marketing experience, what aspects of the customer experience does it actually show? Does it showcase the mobile tools your credit union provides? Does it show how you make it easier for them to access funds and perform transactions? What other benefits do you offer? Do you integrate with their favorite fintech, like Venmo?

It’s the time to show why you’re the credit union that can help them live their active, technology-empowered lives and achieve their financial dreams. Make it clear why your institution is the financial hub Millennials should be choosing as the foundation to reach their goals.

2. Embrace Technology and Convenience

Mobile should not just feature in your customer experience, it must be an integral part of your marketing as well. Today brands can target individuals through data you already have about them or by building custom audiences on digital platforms. These ads must be targeted to social and mobile marketplaces, as well, to ensure that Millennials see your messaging where they live when they’re ready to engage with it.

Reaching out to your audience through mobile channels is only the beginning. The creative you send and the offers it presents must showcase mobile-enablement as well. These customers live on their phones, and you need to show them your credit union lives there, too.

3. Make a Personal Connection

Targeting and personalization go hand-in-hand. The data available today — both your first-party data and information vendors can provide — is a powerful tool for making marketing that connects. This goes beyond demographics. With the right data, you can target younger adults at times when they may be more open to changing banks or pursuing other financial products like car loans and mortgages.

Figure out what demographics and life events you want to engage with this campaign and design a direct mail campaign that addresses them and serves as your marketing catalyst. Then target that defined segment with complimentary marketing across the digital world.

Millennial Marketing Tech for Credit Unions

Credit unions have always marketed less than other financial institutions, especially through mass-market channels. Instead, the traditional credit union relied on word of mouth and brand reputation supported by local direct mail to build personal connections with its community customer base.

Those are all good tactics and credit unions should keep using them, but they aren’t enough. Today, a single direct mail campaign may be seen, but it’s too easily forgotten in the tide of advertising Millennials see all day. Not to mention, while Millennials have been shown to appreciate direct mail, this is not the demographic you want thinking that your brand is “old-school” — digital marketing and engagement channels are essential for getting and holding Millennials’ attention.

Just like your credit union isn’t their father’s financial institution, today’s optichannel marketing isn’t the direct marketing of 1990. With the data and tools available today, it’s possible to make a personal connection that sets your brand up for success with each customer you reach. Doing that in a way that embodies the customer experience your credit union provides is the key to winning Millennial bank accounts today.

Are Boomers Really Underserved by Digital Marketers?

Marketing to Millennials is out-sized in digital media, probably because of the upside potential. Digital marketers see future lifetime value is always bigger when you’re going to live another 50 to 70 years.

Did you hear the one about the entitled calling out the entitled?

I’m entitled. I was born during the peak year of the Baby Boom — and one thing I never had to think about was being ignored by marketers. Even digital marketers today.

Riding the “age wave” as a consumer, I was courted by brands from a tender young age. I was taught young how to be a good American consumer, and I was duly paid attention to by marketers.

And though the peak year of the Baby Boom presented challenges growing up — we all competed fiercely for college placements, job placements, housing, and status — it also prepared us well for the Reagan era’s rugged individualism, a concept and social structure that seems to have gone far, far away in our “it takes a Village” reality today. At least in the ’80s, I could afford to move to New York — though barely.

Witness a new generation — the children of Baby Boomers, Millennials — who are rising to dominate the workforce, and asserting new social values (built on inclusiveness, sustainability, fairness, and tolerance) and, gee, are brands paying attention to them! No, I’m not jealous — I’m thrilled. No, really!

Transparency, Authenticity, Sustainability, Diversity, On Demand — Brand Attributes That Appeal

According to a newly updated Deloitte Insights study, there are nearly as many Millennials as Boomers in the United States. These two generations are both forces for economic growth — as consumer spending drives two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Boomers certainly have more disposable income — and Millennials have more debt relative to income. But where digital strategy drives the marketing, Deloitte reports, Boomers may matter less, at least in practice. My guess: Marketing to Millennials is out-sized in digital media, probably because of the upside potential. Future lifetime value is always bigger when you’re going to live another 50 to 70 years.

Also, Millennials live, work, and play online. Boomers consume digitally, too. But when you tune into the nightly television news, you know the audience is comprised of Boomers and the Silent Generation before them. (Granted, when I watch TV news, I’m also skimming my smartphone.) Just watch the ads for prescription drugs, incontinence products, memory care, nutraceuticals, and other products for an aging audience — and you know there’s hardly a soul under 40 (or 50) watching scheduled newscasts anymore. The cord-cutting is rampant when “triple-play” packages cost hundreds per month, and Millennial-led households and individuals don’t see any need or logic to pay like their parents do, even if they can afford it.

They consume media completely differently, and always can steam any live events, news included, from their own trusted sources fairly easily. Media consumption, disrupted.

Brand attributes are changing, too. Many direct-to-consumer brands, popular among Millennials, have arisen not just because of perceived convenience and superior product, if that is indeed true — but because they connect using data flows that recognize the consumer from device to device, and learn in the process (that matters). They also connect because of what the brand represents, by establishing emotional and identity connection. Does the brand speak to the individual with respect and display a social aptitude? If the answer is yes, you have a better chance of gaining business and loyalty. It helps, too, that marketing is personalized at mass scale – and product personalization is booming. As “social” a cohort as Millennials are, they still demand “rugged individualism” when tailoring the product or service to their own wants, needs, and interests. For any of us at any age, we love such personalized connections, too.

So let’s congratulate Millennials, their digital prowess, and the brands’ love affair they are experiencing on their devices — and that I’ve enjoyed for decades elsewhere everywhere. It’s not as if I’m ignored online, I know I’m still coveted. But let’s not talk about sex.

digital marketers
Photo: Chet Dalzell, Photo inside JFK – Alitalia Lounge, 2019. I’ve enjoyed the attention. | Credit: Chet Dalzell

Millennials Are Spending More on Health and Wellness

According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Millennials are spending both their own money and that of their Boomer parents’, and what has their focus the most is health and wellness. Brands can tap into this, even if outside of the traditional health and wellness industries.

Millennials may have more educational debt than any previous generation, but they also have disproportionate spending power. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Millennials are spending both their own money and that of their Boomer parents’, who are providing more access to money and credit than we’ve seen before. So with all that spending power, what are they spending it on — and how should brands reach them? The secret is to emphasize health and wellness across diverse industries.

The Importance to Millennials About Signaling Their Own Health and Wellness

To understand just how important health and wellness are to Millennials, it may help to look at a particularly narrow market: luxury water bottles. Remember the rise of Nalgene in the mid-2000s? Relatively modest by today’s standards, these colorful, indestructible bottles were the first “status” water bottles. Today, that market is dominated by pricey S’well bottles, but also includes Yeti, bkr, Hydro Flask, and others. And according to NYU marketing professor Tülin Erdem, flaunting these bottles are about more than hydration.

In Erdem’s interpretation, water bottles are a way that Millennials signal health and wellness, and those signals are important. They also do drink more water than previous generations, but even those with little physical investment in wellness sport high-end water bottles, athleisure, and other wellness markers on a day-to-day basis as a means of attracting like-minded peers and making a statement about their identity.

Food and Drink Are Obvious Targets

One sector that has an obvious edge in marketing to Millennials are food and drink brands, those companies who produce goods directly implicated in health and well-being, but there are also brands putting a spin on this classic angle. Consider, for example, the stark contrast between tea and alcohol.

Both tea and alcohol are getting a lot of buzz with Millennials, and both are leaning hard into the wellness message. This is easy for tea; products like matcha are popular precisely because they offer functional health benefits, which adds to its appeal. Traditionally alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, are typically bad for one’s health and are a harder sell. As such, brands are making small adjustments like making beer more like juice in order to market what seems like a more “refreshing” beverage. The repositioning of beer brands is an effort that other industries also could use to make their products more appealing.

Health and Wellness Extends to Pet Products

At the most basic level, the pet food market is an enormous growth area, expected to surpass $8.21 billion by 2024, not including additional products like supplements, treats, and toys purchased by owners, but the area that’s really growing is natural pet food products. That’s because 29% of U.S. buyers seek to avoid artificial ingredients in pet treats. They want their pets to eat how they eat, and they even budget for it. Millennial pet owners, in particular, are especially likely to spend money on grain-free or other “free-from” pet diets.

It’s also no surprise that pet treats have also taken on a functional bent — and that’s getting these products into the hands of users. In fact, Pedigree’s DentaSTIX tooth cleaning product won a major advertising award in 2018, and the company saw 24% sales growth, year over year. The product offers pet owners what marketers call “a positive treating product” as an alternative to many of the other options on the market, and this boost in sales hinges largely on Millennials.

Making a Marketing Move

Following family, health and wellness are Millennials’ top priority, with 53% deeming these issues important to them, far above spirituality and career — and marketing departments and brands must keep this in mind. Unlike so many other brand trends, health and wellness are changing the entire shape of what people buy at a structural level. It’s a big change, and even classically “unhealthy” products — snack foods, alcohol, etc. — need to find ways to reorient their brands in every sector, from clothing to home goods to transportation, to reach today’s buyers.

Mobile-First? Mobile-Only? Or Simply Screen-Optimized

The latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices. I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

How to Improve the Mobile Shopping Experience for CustomersThe latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices.

I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

Since 2013, total digital media usage is up 40 percent — all of it driven by mobile. Smartphone usage is up 99 percent – that’s double since 2013. Tablet use is up 26 percent since 2013, while desktop has declined by 8 percent. I can match the 40 percent time growth in digital easily enough, but I’m still in love with my Lenovo ThinkPad. As a writer and communicator, I just can’t let go of my keypad and (relatively) big screen. My tablet even has a perfectly operational Bluetooth keypad.

I’m sure a generation (or two) ago, it was tough for writers to swap out their typewriters for “word processors.” But look around … times they are a-changing.

You can guess age has something to do with it.

Mobile now represents seven in 10 digital minutes. Dig deeper: 22 percent of 18 to 24 year-old women, and 16 percent of 18 to 24 year-old men are “mobile only.” (Echo Chamber: I’m guessing most mobile-only’s are not white-collar workers with computers in home and office work stations. I can’t think of any of my professional colleagues who do not interact with a PC or laptop.) On the other side, 19 percent of the U.S. market has no smartphone penetration at all — with age 55+ smartphone penetration at just 61 percent.

While mobile platforms definitely prevent a complete divide between digital have’s (those with PCs/laptops + mobile) and have-not’s (those who do not, without even a smartphone), in my mind, there is still not “information” equality between digital and mobile. Do we consume information equally in depth, in time, in audio, in video, in copy length — from one size screen to another? Can attention be held adequately? Can copy be as easily read? Content cannot and should not be packaged the same for both platforms, IMHO. (If it weren’t for mobile, I would have typed out “in my humble opinion.”)

Consider these other effects:

  • Desktop Audiences Amplified: Mobile is a desktop extender – the top 100 digital properties have increased their mobile audiences over their desktop equivalents by a factor of 2.4. This multiple is growing, and probably not coincidentally, most smartphone screens now have 4.5-inch or larger displays — which has flattened the growth of tablets.
  • Wall Strength: Huge growth is happening in time spent inside mobile applications: led by Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram, Gmail and Google Play. Snapchat, Pandora and Amazon are the largest apps outside the “walled gardens.” Snapchat usage grew by 114 percent.
  • Apps are Changing Behaviors: Apps are changing consumer behavior permanently – from ordering rides, to paying friends, to making dates – by the tens of millions. And some apps are “flash” – Pokémon GO has one-fifth the active user base that it had last July.
  • Millennials are Smart … Phoned: Smartphone penetration among Millennials (ages 18 to 34) is at its saturation point — currently 94 percent. With the big rise in Snapchat, they still spend most their social app time on Facebook, with equal time in Snapchat and Instagram. Snapchat app penetration among Millennials is 60 percent, compared to 95 percent for that of Facebook.
  • Time Spent Digitally: This might also help to explain why the three top digital time uses are social media (20 percent of total digital time), multimedia (14 percent) and entertainment/music (11 percent). One has to go all the way down to 3 percent equally for news and information, email, and search. Mobile is primarily a connection and entertainment vehicle for us. Information-on-demand is hugely important. However, we get it and then get off it.
  • Video: YouTube is the big online video winner and 70 percent of watch-time is on mobile devices, versus 30 percent in desktop. While mobile minutes and monthly videos watched per viewer are dominated by mobile, desktop still gets (just) an edge in average minutes watched per video … 4.7 minutes on desktop average minutes to 3.7 minutes on mobile. Perhaps as display screens expand, and headphones abound, video is becoming just as captivating on either screen.

There’s more to report in this study, including some concerning effects regarding advertising. But like the previous blog post — the perfect mobile ad — we need to be screen-optimizing our content. We also need to plot the customer journey in mobile, and depending on the target audience, place that mobile customer journey first in mind.

Direct Mail Marketing to Millennials – 5 Tips

Millennials will have a cumulative $1.4 trillion in spending power by 2020. Because they are known as digital natives, many people thought direct mail was a bad way to reach them. However, this has shown itself to be untrue: Millennials like getting mail!

Marketing to MillennialsMarketers are really starting to look at how millennials respond to marketing. In a recent study conducted by DigitasLBi, Razorfish, Tumblr and Yahoo, millennials will have a cumulative $1.4 trillion in spending power by 2020. Therefore, marketers need to pay attention to this group of people.

Because millennials are known as digital natives, many people thought direct mail was a bad way to reach them. However, this has shown itself to be untrue: Millennials like getting mail!

How can direct mail appeal to millennials?

  1. Authenticity: All the messaging and imagery on your direct mail pieces need to be authentic and in sync with your brand. Show that you are consistent, responsible and transparent. Provide links to access more information about your company. Show your passion not only for what you do but the people in your organization that do it.
  2. Accessibility: How easy is it for someone to reach you? How many ways to respond to your direct mail are there? If they call you will they reach a human or an auto attendant? The easier it is to respond the more responses you are going to get.
  3. Human Appeal: Create a sense of connection with each individual, not only with personalization but through emotion. Highlight real people in your organization who are doing good things and remember to use a picture. When you humanize your brand you have a greater appeal.
  4. Social Awareness: Showcase all the good things your company is doing for social causes. This goes beyond just donating money, which is seen as a token gesture. How are your employees giving back? Pick Charites that are in sync with your brand or that you and your employees feel very deeply about. Then tell everyone about the great things you are doing!
  5. Technology: Since this group is very digital savvy, make sure that you are including technology in your direct mail. Not just QR codes, but more powerful NFC, augmented reality and more. Direct mail is a great gateway to online content and mobile devices. Millennials like interactive experiences, so give them that experience generated from your direct mail. Remember, they love to share good experiences with friends!

Millennials are great people! Targeting them with direct mail is not as big of a challenge as some people try to make it. Using the five techniques above will help you effectively communicate with and sell to millennials. Your direct mail should be inclusive and informative, not pushy. Keep you calls to action very specific with easy-to-understand benefits. Millennials view direct mail as more trustworthy than electronic communication, so make sure to capitalize on that!

Providing an excellent user experience across multiple channels is required with this target group. Embrace that and create fun, engaging direct mail that moves recipients online to landing pages, social media or whatever content you want. As always, make sure to track your responses so that you know what is working and what is not. Lastly, keep in mind that all millennials are not the same, they are individuals just like the rest of us and have varying wants and needs. Capturing their response information and adding that to your database is valuable. It will allow you to provide better offers to them in the future.