What is the financial services world coming to? Justin Bieber is now offering a pre-paid debit card for teens. Are you serious? It’s bad enough we have to listen to his music and watch his ridiculous commercials. Now we have to compete with him, too?Justin Bieber - 1

Although there will probably be very little real competition Bieber brings when it comes to reaching teens and their money, there are a few things we can gain from his entry into the financial services sector. Here are some lessons financial institutions can learn from Bieber's pre-paid debit card:

 (1) Offer a better pre-paid debit card or consumer friendly checking. Ron Shevlin has been warning us for the past year about the “de-banked” and pre-paid debit cards. If you haven’t read his post “The Debanked: The $1.7 Billion Threat to Banks,” it’s a must-read. Whether you like it or not (and think the Bieber card is stupid, which it is), there is a market  (and a growing younger demographic market) that are opting for pre-paid debit cards. Financial institutions can respond with their own pre-paid card as a product or offer a more consumer friendly checking account. Not doing so ignores one of the trends in banking today. The biggest issue to improve either product: fees. Whether you offer a checking or pre-paid debit card make sure you are addressing consumers concerns about fees. The reality of the Bieber card is that it is a horrible deal for consumers. Beat the horribleness of Bieber.

2) Use video tools to reach teens. How did Bieber launch the card? With social media but also primarily through YouTube. You can check out the video below.

  
Whether you hate Bieber or have a case of Bieber Fever, you have to give him credit: he knows how to reach the teen market. And video is the way to go. The number one search engine for people 30 is not Google, Bing or Yahoo. It’s YouTube. So how are you using this channel at your credit union or bank? As we noted in the post “Video Has Their Attention—Does it Have Yours?” financial institutions must start using video as a central component of their marketing efforts (and not just an after thought). These tactics could include a video annual report, a more robust digital strategy, a customized YouTube channel, short financial education clips and video member testimonials.

(3) Educate teens (and the many anti-Bieber people). Most consumer advocates are jumping on the Bieber pre-paid debit card as a bad deal. Even the president of SpendSmart Payments (the company behind the card) said, "If you want to teach teens responsible spending then there are better, less expensive ways of doing so. Teaching teens that it's OK to pay a fee to use your own money is the exact opposite of what you should be teaching them." What? The CEO just admitted the pre-paid debit card is a bad deal for teens? Then why are you offering it? And note that the company’s web address is “billmyparents.com.” Now is the right time to educate teens (and their parents) just how important being smart about your money is. Demonstrate in tangible ways how much money you are saving them with lower fees. Use the news coverage about the Bieber card to your advantage. Contact local reporters and share your concerns regarding what a bad deal the Bieber card is. Write an editorial piece in the local newspaper. Craft your own ant-Bieber video. Remember, however, that the best way to reach Gen. Y is still through mom and dad.

(4) Nothing. The reality is the Bieber pre-paid debit card is going to flop. After all, this is Justin Bieber we’re talking about.

Now that this post is done, I’m off to listen to Baby on my iPod.

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