Courting the Millennials

The buying power of this demographic is about $200 billion annually.

February 17, 2014

As many credit unions know, businesses cannot afford to ignore the Millennials.

“Their collective buying power alone—an estimated $200 billion annually—is already noteworthy and will only increase as they mature into their peak earning and spending years,” reports “Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever,” by Jeff Fromm and Christie Garton.

This book reveals eight attitudes Millennials share. Among them: They value social networking, require authenticity, and they are very influential as they sway both parents and peers.

This generation consists of more than 80 million people and is the largest generation in American history, outnumbering Baby Boomers by one million. In addition to their annual buying power, they influence at least twice as much in expenditures, “Marketing to Millennials” reports.

This book provides insight as it defines who this influential group is, outlines marketing rules to engage them, and suggests how you might best obtain their loyalty.

How does your credit union acknowledge the needs and desires of this large cohort? Do you know how to effectively reach them, and are you aware of their marketing preferences?

Research findings this week will lead the way to understanding this important generation of consumers.

‘I’m never so sure as I was in my mid-20s.’—Meryl Streep

Millennials are making important decisions with regard to student loan and other debt. Are they making wise choices?

According to USA Today, “42% of Millennials Blame Colleges for Rising Student Debt.” Student loan debt is a “$1 trillion problem,” according to the article, and 42% of survey respondents ages 18 to 29 “blamed colleges and universities for rising student debt, while 30% blamed the federal government.”

Colleges take the blame because they “only allocate resources to programs that students and families say they want.” This creates a situation in which students perceive college “more as a private good than a public good—as a key driving factor behind the debt.”

This is exacerbated as high-income families demand more from colleges, many low-income families struggle to afford the tuition increases that come along with these better services and facilities.

The college debt problem is further outlined in The Atlantic which tracks the financial and educational past of now-27-year-olds. Survey findings reveal that about half of this group took student loans, with 10.9% borrowing $50,000 or more.

Further, “about 79% of today’s 27-year-olds owe some money, whether that’s on a credit card or mortgage. About 55% owe more than $10,000” and “at every single educational level, more than 80% say their finances are at least somewhat stressful. At least 15% say finances are extremely stressful.”

‘If your city’s being populated by highly educated twentysomethings with choices, you’re probably going to succeed.’ –Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City

Despite student loan issues, “Millennials Gain the Most Financial Ground in 2013,” says an article at “Fully 42% of American employees say their finances improved in 2013, but more than half (58%) of Millennial workers feel they are financially better off now than at the beginning of 2013.”

And, “UBS Investor Watch Report Reveals Millennials are as Financially Conservative as Generations Born During Great Depression.” Here, “While Millennials describe their risk tolerance as either conservative or somewhat conservative (34%), their average asset allocation is extremely conservative, with the average portfolio dedicating 52% to cash, compared to 23% cash for other investors.”

Most Millennials say the best advice they’d ever gotten was to save, and this is creating “a generation of savers who are skeptical about long-term investing and market-chasing. Only 12% of Millennials said they would invest found money in the market, and only 28% see long-term investing as a pathway to success.”

Millennials have a “money matters” mentality, as 48% indicate “financial freedom is the single most important factor of success” and a household income of $220,000 would be a definition of such success.

However, saving isn’t always at top of mind as “Millennials More Likely to Browse, Make Impulse Buys,” according to eMarketer. Survey results show that, despite their student loan debt and underemployment issues, “60% of millennial Internet users… agreed or strongly agreed that they looked at items online to buy nearly every day, even if they didn’t actually plan on making a purchase.”

This habitual browsing might be why Millennials were more apt to make unplanned purchases. “Around four in 10 Gen Xers and just 30% of baby boomers reported this was something they did frequently.”

‘It’s hard—if not impossible—to market to a generation you don’t understand.’—Jeff Fromm

Clearly, Millennials are a financial force to acknowledge. Here’s “Why You Can’t Ignore Millennials,” according to Forbes.

“Despite a poor economy, Millennials strive to give back to society. Eighty-one percent have donated money, goods, or services… They strive to support causes that align with their values.”

Plus, “companies have also felt the pressure by Millennials to evolve, especially because about one in every three employees in the U.S. will be a Millennial by next year, and by 2025 they will become 75% of the global workforce.”

How do you reach them? Relationships are critical, according to another Forbes article. “Millennials want what everyone else want today: a relationship. With brands that is.”

Research studies show, according to the article, that “Millennials are the most stressed demographic” and brands that attempt to relate to this harried group will “help sway them toward the brass ring: loyalty.”

Further, nearly half of those age 18 to 44 believe that “any loyalty they feel toward brands in the future will be determined by the types of experiences brands create for them.”

How do you create these relationships? What are good marketing strategies and touchpoints? See more of Jeff Fromm’s research at

Here you’ll learn Millennials like:

  • Adventure;
  • Participating in digital marketing efforts;
  • Peer affirmation;
  • Healthy choices; and
  • Alignment of brands with purpose.

It’s important to understand Millennials’ financial needs and habits as you plan products and services they will find appealing, and then correctly position them for your audience.

Fromm’s book sums up effective tactics for Millennials that will be useful and important for anyone hoping to attract, engage, and create loyalty with this remarkable cohort.

“Create an emotional connection with this group… Do this through innovative products, packaging, and promotional programs that reflect this generation’s quest to look like they’re living well for less… And play this out by prominently reflecting the value proposition across marketing programs and platforms.”





  Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.