America's CU Conference

Gen Y Merits Different Approach From CUs

Gen Y believes in products that reflect their own values.

June 20, 2012

To reach Young Gen Y members, credit unions need to think way outside the box, Josh Allison, founder/chief ideator for Think Café Consulting America’s Credit Union Conference attendees Monday.

The conference, presented by CUNA, concludes Wednesday.

Today, there’s a consumer awareness crisis because 70% of those aged 18-24 aren’t familiar with credit unions. That age group constitutes only 9% of all credit union members, Allison said.

There are several reasons for this, he explained. Credit unions are just one of many options amid a wide array of traditional and nontraditional financial services companies.

There’s also a blurred vision proposition with everyone in the market saying “we are better” or “we have a better product.”

However, the real key is that Gen Y lives in a Marketing 3.0, human-centric world in which all products are considered equal, and values are the new differentiator, Allison explained.

“Gen Y believes in self-reflecting products,” he added. “They like products that reflect their own values. So what can credit unions offer that other for-profit financial institutions cannot? Purpose.”

The top values of Gen Y/Millennials are:

  1. Optimism/confidence;
  2. Diversity;
  3. Variety and multi-tasking;
  4. Flexibility/upward mobility; and
  5. Social responsibility.

Characteristics of a brand targeted to Gen Y are simple, quirky, happy, and committed to social causes, Allison said. However, he offers some caveats.

“Youth education does not equal youth recruitment,” he said. “Just because you're winning Desjardins awards doesn't mean you're gaining youth members.”

Also, about 74% of young adults use social networks to talk about products with friends and make recommendations. But only 12% want to “friend” a brand.

“So, social media is not the answer in itself,” Allison noted.

How do you create advocacy with young consumers? Give them something they can believe in, Allison said.

He then played a clip of an Apple ad in which late founder Steve Jobs never mentioned a product trait or anything about what Apple was selling. Instead, he focused on values people need to embrace in a changing world.

Nike and Firefox are other companies that have often advertised by promoting values rather than product features, he added.

“Credit unions can do the same thing,” he said. "Stop talking about auto loan rates and illustrate an idea worth believing in. One thing credit unions can give Gen Y is not just the product, but the idea as well. A key to reaching that generation is being environmentally responsible and socially responsible.

“Invite collaboration and creativity," he concluded. "Credit union brands need to focus on being so relevant that Gen Y will be won over.

“Stop talking about yourself, invite collaboration, and communicate the purpose behind what you are doing. If you sell an authentic idea, young people who believe in the idea will become advocates for the brand.”