In Search of Gen Y

Many CUs find it difficult to attract this elusive age group.

December 30, 2011
KEYWORDS banking , mobile , online , young
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‘Young & Free’

Michigan First Credit Union in Lathrup Village achieves those objectives through its Young & Free Michigan program. “Young & Free” is a marketing program developed by Currency Marketing and licensed for use by credit unions in eight states and two Canadian provinces.

The $640 million asset credit union introduced Young & Free Michigan along with new products for Gen Y members ages 17 to 25 in February 2011.

Michigan First wanted to build on its high school branches and partnerships with area universities to establish long-term relationships with Gen Y, says Linda Douglas, vice president of marketing.

A highly publicized contest to select a Gen Y “spokester” for a year-long term helped launch the program. Winner Janelle O’Hara now works for Michigan First to create weekly videos and daily blog posts on financial and lifestyle topics, appear at public events, and advise the marketing department (“A Gen Y convert”).

Best Practices for Serving Gen Y

Brent Dixon, Gen Y adviser to the Filene Research Institute, recommends these best practices for serving this demographic:

1. Invest in self-service technology. Online-only banks’ efficient, seamless product delivery is your primary competition.

2. Target key life events. Create “first time” products in areas such as auto loans and mortgages by tweaking the terms of existing products and bundling them with financial education or a financial advisor.

3. Differentiate yourself. Establish a compelling brand that can be clearly conveyed to Gen Y. Dixon says too many credit union brands are “lukewarm, safe, and begging to be ignored.”

Before launching the program, Michigan First gathered information about Gen Y by inviting tellers from its high school branches to monthly meetings that provided free pizza in exchange for discussions of financial needs and decision making.

Designing products with authentic appeal to Gen Y is essential, says Douglas, because the group is intolerant of marketing missteps and wary of attempts to manipulate their loyalty.

“They see through anything they feel is hype, so we really have a peer-to-peer conversation going on between our spokesperson and Gen Y,” Douglas says. An Overdrive Street Team of employees age 30 and younger work at public events to provide another set of peers for Gen Y prospects.

Next: Appealing products

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