The Kids Are Alright? When It Comes to Marketing Financial Services Products to Gen Y, It Takes a Deft Hand and New Tricks

By Bielski, Lauren | ABA Banking Journal, November 2007 | Go to article overview
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The Kids Are Alright? When It Comes to Marketing Financial Services Products to Gen Y, It Takes a Deft Hand and New Tricks


Bielski, Lauren, ABA Banking Journal


If, as a boomer parent, you have the sneaking suspicion that your millennial--or echo boomer"--children are an altogether different breed in their purchasing, consuming, and living habits, you'd be right, says Bill Carter, partner of Fuse Marketing. He adds that you should take that knowledge to your day job as a bank marketer trying to reach that segment.

Fuse specializes in reaching this youth segment, also referred to as Generation Y, the eldest of which are 29 and comprise nearly a third of the U.S. population, and represent a market of $170 billion annually. Based in Burlington, Vt., Fuse has been responsible for--or contributed to--branding and marketing campaigns adopted by New Balance, Motorola, Eastern Mountain Sports, NBC, and a coterie of others. Financial services firms, though not listed on the firm's convivial, color-splashed website, have also been clients.

"Loud and uninteresting is bad," Carter says, in his take on Fortune 500 youth-segment ads that have barraged television and radio since the mid '80s. You'll still see--and hear--these old school "shout it out loud" ads, but in Carter's view: "Quiet, thoughtful, and singular is what's working for Echo Boomers now. You have to find a way to show what you're selling with a clarity and authenticity and not faux cool," the marketer adds.

Other marketing experts, including Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, who have a new book out on marketing, titled Authenticity, believe that being "real" is valued by many segments in society at a time when we all feel either annoyed, lied to, or handled by the managed message.

This quest for the actual versus the manufactured means that today's kids take their cues almost exclusively from friends and celebrities they admire. Sure, ads have to influence somebody to get this process started, but predicting what brands will actually resonate is trickier than ever.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Posing an example, Carter contrasts the campaigns of recent years to sell Detroit-made vehicles with the overall approach used by Volkswagen for the reintroduction of the Beetle. With its Gerber Daisy and candy colors--which was fresh and broke through the wall of media noise--VW made a statement. Carter points to VW's current campaign and website copy promoting

the carbon offsetting concept as a great instance of relating a brand to something important and newsworthy, managing to laser-focus attention on both a cause and a product. Meanwhile, the content communicates to the very young.

Gen Y's splice of life

So tweens, teens, and 20-somethings are into themselves, above all, as has always been the case. Yet this youth generation has enacted its relative self-absorption in striking ways. Meanwhile, elders are likewise responding differently. After all, the broadcast news and other outlets have bent over backwards to both "hipster up" and dumb down their content to make it more palatable for those younger than Gen X.

Unless you've been so busy at the office that you hardly noticed, kids of today are TiVo-savvy, even more than consumers who preceded them. "It's not like when you and I were kids," Carter, a Gen X-age exec, jokes. Today, he points out, Echo Boomer kids "download only the two songs on a Justin Timberlake, White Stripes, or Killers record that they like." This selective consumption shapes their appetite for consumption of all services.

In fact, Yankelovich, Norwalk, Conn., is applying a scientific term--splicing,--in a marketing context to describe a cut-and-paste youth that will hound mass market firms for consistency of message and better offers by this snippet approach, notes Los Angeles-based partner Pete Rose. "It's all about taking what you want and only what you want," he explains. "The concept is related to mash-ups. Youth will increasingly demand the best parts of all retail offers," he explains. "They will look at what is offered via all channels and call the provider out on any inconsistencies more ruthlessly.

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