“The old style advertising that works very well with boomers, ads that push a slogan and an image and a feeling, the younger consumer is not going to go for.”
Our society continues to change with each generation. We’ve gone from Pearl Harbor to Pearl Jam; from stern parents to Howard Stern; from Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon to Michael Jackson’s moon walk; and from American Bandstand to XM satellite radio. Our society and culture have changed.
But what does that mean for credit unions? Actually, quite a lot. There is a huge generational gap that exists both with our membership and among our employees. Credit unions that embrace and leverage these generational differences will succeed. Those that ignore the generational implications risk becoming obsolete.
Various dates are used with each generation. For example, one source might indicate Boomers were born in 1960 while others say it was 1964. For the purposes of this post, we will use the dates from William Strauss and Neil Howe. They are the leading demographers of our country and use dates associated with societal change rather than parental birth patterns.
Strauss and Howe break the generations into the following groups:
- Matures—born between 1925 and 1942 (between the ages 69 and 86). Matures are also known as the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation. There are currently 27 million Matures (9% of the population). You never want to call this group “seniors” in your marketing material. They don’t want to be called seniors—until they go to the movies!
- Baby Boomers—born between 1943 and 1960 (between the ages 51 and 68). Baby Boomers are also known as the original “yuppies” (the young upwardly mobile professionals). There are currently 64 million Boomers (21.5% of the population).
- Generation X—born between 1961 and 1981 (between the ages 30 and 50). Generation X is also known as Baby Busters, Slackers and Latchkey Kids. There are currently 89 million Xers (30% of the population). We just blew away a myth. The myth is that there are more Boomers than Xers. That is actually not true (of course, it’s because the Boomers are dead from the drugs they took in the sixties—just kidding!).
- Generation Y—Born between 1982 and 2003 (currently between the ages 8 and 29). Generation Y is sometimes referred to as the Dot Com Generation, Echo Boomers or Millenials. Depending on where you mark the demarcation line, there are 78 million in the Gen. Y group (26% of the population).
Here are several practical steps credit unions should take regarding generational issues:
(1) Pull the current age of your existing membership base and put them in these generational buckets—This gives you invaluable data about your credit union. If the majority of your members are in the Mature or older Baby Boom demographic, where will your credit union be in five or ten years?
(2) Conduct generational training with staff—Your front line staff tends to come from Generation Y, while your members who conduct branch transactions tend to be older Boomers or Matures. Can you say “generational clash?” One credit union actually became one of the top ten credit unions in the country in membership growth by focusing on generational training with their staff.
(3) Focus on generational issues in your strategic planning session—Every credit union should conduct strategic planning on a yearly basis. When doing your session this year, spend time examining these generational issues and the many strategic implications.
(4) Examine your brand—Does your brand resonate across the generations? What is your brand vision, mission and message?
(5) Determine your targets—Your credit union cannot be all things to all people. And it can’t be all things to all generations. The best credit unions focus on particular niches.
(6) Serve the generations uniquely—Take the above information and customize talking points your front line staff can use with each group (for example, grandchildren CDs for the Mature generation).
(7) Bridge the generations—While separating the generations is helpful, you also want to look for ways to bring the generations together. This could be in the form of wealth transfer or college planning workshops.
(8) Update your marketing—Make sure marketing is not “old school” (unless your primary target is Matures). Do the images in your newsletters and brochures match your target generations?
(9) Conduct generational focus groups—One of the best ways to research the generations is to dialogue with them. Focus groups can provide keen insight on what is important to each group.
(10)Show each generation value—We are biased toward our own generation. Yet each generation brings unique value to the credit union. We need each generation to grow our credit unions.
For more information about credit unions and generational issues, you see read two longer pieces on the subject I wrote recently. One appears in the December issue of my e-zine. The free e-zine gives more details about marketing insights for each generation. You can also read a piece on CUInsight’s Community Page, American Bandstand to Satellite Radio: Generational Marketing Improves Results.
As the credit union movement continues to grow and mature, much of how it develops will hinge on its look and feel. Although credit union marketing and communication professionals have always taken a lead role in this effort, the input and value of graphic designers cannot be overlooked. While many credit union marketers are superb organizers, idea-generators and brand cheerleaders, the special creative fire that fuels art often comes from graphic designers.
To get a better feel for graphic design and future credit union marketing efforts, we sat down with Kenny Kent, creative guru and owner of Kent Design. Kent worked for a credit union marketing ad agency from 1988 – 2002 before starting his own business and has served the needs of credit unions for close to 25 years. His answers, thoughts and input offer a unique look at this important element of marketing.
What do you see as key elements of effective credit union graphic design?
Credit unions are poised at a terrific time to make the most of good graphic design, especially with the recent negative media and consumer attention focused on banks. I see credit unions as really moving up the visibility chain in the public eye and looking as professional and on-message as possible is crucial. If there was ever a time when bank customers are apt to make a change and a time for credit unions to put their best collective foot forward, it’s now. The way the public first perceives any company or organizational message is the pivotal moment between gaining or losing interest and trust. Credit unions need brand consistency, brand appeal and brand awareness. Graphic design really leads the charge in that direction.
What must credit union marketing and communication professionals look for in effective graphic design?
The elements at play here are really quite simple. Look for visuals that pop, coupled with an offer that compels action and copy that adds to, not detracts from, all of the above. We still face the challenge of wanting to put too many words in our design. I like to point out the powerful simplicity of Apple “i” products, like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The design is brilliant in its simplicity. In a crowded electronics store, you’ll automatically gravitate towards an Apple product poster and know what it is selling, without need for loads of attention-draining copy. Less really is more and credit union ad design benefits from this same maxim. Cutting through everybody else’s clutter is the goal here.
What concerns do you have for credit union graphic design moving ahead?
With deference to the points we’ve already discussed, I will point out an additional challenge, one shared by both graphic designers and the credit unions they serve. As artists, graphic designers are susceptible to falling too much in love with their own creations. Yes, we are paid for our talents, abilities and vision, but we also must know when to rein in the urge to “own” our creations. Credit union marketing teams also have a vision for what they want and are usually the best gatekeepers of their particular membership base. The two camps can always work harder towards producing the best of both worlds: effective graphic design that looks great and accomplishes the marketing goal for which it was commissioned.
Do you have any other thoughts on the future of credit union graphic design?
The buzzword here continues to be technology. Everything is tech-driven and graphic design is no exception. While we’re not writing a lot of complex code (we save that for the IT folks) we are seeing more and more demand for design geared from the ground-up for use on websites and smart phones. We’re also seeing a corresponding drop in demand for traditional printed materials. For example, as more focus goes into, say, smart phone apps and website ads, less is left for wall posters and flyers. I think what we’re seeing is the gradual shift to an e-commerce society as reflected by the demand of credit union membership. That credit union marketers are responding to this demand is a good sign for the future health and growth of the credit union movement.
You can reach Kenny at email@example.com or (512) 312-4956.
Lots of credit unions entered the social media world in 2011 and many have plans to do even more in 2012. But credit unions aren’t necessarily doing it the right way. Many create a Facebook page or Twitter account and expect their members to flock to their pages instantly. Before embarking (or doing more) with social media, consider the two Ss: strategy and staff.
Sometimes we overcomplicate things. As you make your 2012 social media plans, focus on two aspects: strategy and staff. Many feel social media is just about putting up a Facebook page and opening a Twitter account. That’s not much of a strategy.
“It is important to note that Facebook is not the ‘Field of Dreams,’” says James Robert Lay, president of PTP New Media. “It’s a big misconception to think that credit union members will come flocking in as fans if a credit union gets a Facebook page. The same can be true for Twitter. One thing for a credit union to remember for both Facebook and Twitter is they are both communication channels that members can opt-in to follow. Within these channels, a credit union can listen, learn and engage their members in a real and intimate way.”
The first step in crafting a social media strategy is to engage in a dialogue with members about where they are online. Do they even use Facebook and how do they like to be engaged? Ask them to complete an online survey on your website. Better yet, have tellers ask them just two or three pertinent questions while conducting a transaction, or have an employee conduct a survey with members waiting in line.
So the first “S” (strategy) involves using that member information to determine the target audience and how to interact with them online.
Then you move to the second “S” (staff). Your credit union must determine how much manpower will be needed to deploy social media effectively. Credit unions that do social media well usually have a social media team. That team is often led by a social media manager who ties all social media together with traditional marketing to ensure the consistency of the credit union brand. One social media tool may only require one staff member, but multiple social media tools most likely will require multiple people to execute effectively.
Many credit unions fall into a trap of adding social media to their marketing director’s “To Do” list. The reality is social media can be a huge chunk of time. You either need to take something off their plate, give them additional resources (translation: people) or outsource your initial social media efforts.
Before your credit union goes traipsing down the social media path be sure you’ve properly examined your strategy and staff.
Taglines are an essential component of your brand. But they are not your brand. Ultimately, branding is who you are. While branding is much more than just a tagline, they do play a critical role.
In many cases, a credit union’s vision and mission statements can be long and grandiose. They tend to be internally focused (what you want your employees to focus on). Taglines tend to be externally focused (what you want to communicate to your members and potential members).
So how do you know if your credit union’s tagline is effective? Here are three characteristics of a good tagline.
(1) Six words or less
You have to be able to answer the question, “what is your credit union about’ in six words or less. That is the billboard and business card test: strong enough to quickly communicate your message on a giant billboard and small enough to print on a business card.
(2) Communicates “What is your credit union about?”
As noted above, “what is your credit union about” is the ultimate question you must answer with your credit union’s branding efforts. Your tagline must communicate who you are as an organization, who you are as members, and who you are as employees. It is the sum of your values.
You always want your tagline to be active; to be doing something. For example, Nike says “Just do it,” Apple communicates, “Think different,” and Starbucks is “Rewarding every day moments.” In each of those cases, the taglines are active, not passive.
There is no right or wrong way to develop a tagline. You can develop it from within using employee and member feedback. You can use an outside agency to create options. Or you can do a combination of both.
No matter how you create your tagline, the key is that it effectively captures the essence of your credit union.
Note: A version of this post first appeared in the Texas Credit Union League’s Lone Star Leaguer.
In Breakaway Brands, author Barry Silverstein says, “More and more, management plays a critical role in the success of a brand that breaks away from the pack.” But let’s get specific: it’s not just management, it’s the CEO (and other “chiefs” such as the chief financial officer, chief operations officer, etc.) who plays that ultimate critical role in the credit union world.
While front-line employees certainly make or break the brand, a brand’s success starts at the top. Before embarking on any major branding effort, you must have a heart-to-heart talk with CEO about what he or she thinks your credit union brand is (hint: your brand is not your logo, your look, or your tagline).
The challenge is that many marketers think is color, while the CEO, CFO and COO think in black and white. Branding often requires us (even at the “C” suite) to think in color.
Ultimately, your CEO should be the brand champion. In many ways, the CEO is the secret weapon. Your CEO shapes the credit union’s brand vision and demands effective brand behavior. In effect, who is the Steve Jobs of your credit union? While it helps if it is the CEO, often the head marketing person is the brand champion (and that is okay).
Successful credit union CEOs “get” branding. In fact, they have visionary leadership and not short term focus. Those CEOs recognize that a strong brand is good for credit union business. According to Chief Executive Magazine, “CEOs who recognize the importance of the brand run organizations that tend to be very successful.”
So how do you prove to the CEO, CFO and COO that branding matters? You must show them the bottom line impact a strong brand brings. Strong brands mean more members, more loans, more net income, etc. You must prove that to the CEO.
“One of the things we recognized about 10 or 12 years ago was that probably of all the assets on the balance sheet, none was more important than the brand, even though it wasn’t capitalized at all,” says Fred Smith, CEO of Federal Express.
So all your “chiefs” must embrace your brand. Senior management buy-in is critical. If all your chiefs are on the same page and speaking the same language, your brand will project a much stronger image.