The millennials. They’re sometimes called Generation Y. Sometimes called Echo Boomers. They were born approximately between 1982 and 2000. They have grown up with technology, making them the digital natives.
Financial services marketing seems fascinated with Millennials. My theory is that older marketers fear becoming irrelevant to a big segment (they are the offspring of the Boomers) that will someday represent a huge opportunity for the financial services marketing. Whatever it is, financial institutions have spent an inordinate amount of time and effort chasing the Millennials. From apps to gamification to social channel engagement. But is it with good reason?
Why should we care?
Honestly. The Millennials don’t have any money. Okay, the older ones are established in the work force and may have more need of a car or home loan as well as insurance. They may be starting their investment portfolio. But they also have a lot of debt (credit card and school loans). And it will be some time before they really fit that profile of a highly desirable financial services client. When we bring up this point to financial services marketers, we hear, “Yeah, but we have to win them today so when they are that ideal client, they’ll be our client.” I’m not sure I buy into that thinking what with all the turmoil in the market and the erosion of loyalty among all financial services clients. Plus, Millennials aren’t all that loyal to financial services brands either. But for the sake of argument, let’s go with it.
How much attention do we give this?
Financial services marketing organizations have developed games, launched Facebook campaigns, and built mobile apps. Then they’ve promoted them through everything from social efforts to TV spots. Sure, they reach more than the Gen Y, but the style and marketing of many of these is directly aimed at this segment. You look at some of these efforts, and it makes you wonder who is doing the ROI on these. And that’s what it really comes down to. Can you justify the spend? Do you have an offering that is differentiated for and relevant to the Millennial segment? Will you see an increase in business or reduce operating costs? Can you quantify it? You should really think twice if you’re coming up with answers like, “We just need to be in this space.” Or, “You can’t measure all the intangibles.”
This is not a call to ignore the Millennials.
Hey, I love the Millennials. I have three of them I call sons. I just don’t think financial services marketing should spend as much time as it has on them (how come the Gen Xer’s didn’t get this kind of attention?) We need to be respectful and relevant to the Millennials. They represent tomorrow’s opportunity – especially when you consider the potential transfer of wealth from the Boomers. But let’s keep it in proportion. With that said, here’s how I recommend approaching financial services marketing when it comes to Millennials:
- Identify a financial need for Millennials. As an example, this concept is right on target for this segment.
- Do you have a solution that addresses that need? If no, stop. The worst offense may be trying to repackage a solution so it feels Millennial-ized. They will see right through that.
- Can your solution claim a unique spot in the marketplace? If your solution is like three others already out there, what’s the point? You must have strong, proof-based positioning that separates and elevates your solution so the Millennials can immediately see why they can’t live without it.
- Is it profitable to promote? If so, at what level? It may seem ridiculous to have to pose this question, but you wonder if it gets asked sometimes. If there is no clear path to it making you money, you ought to really question the effort. Even if you do see the profit potential, make sure you understand the appropriate investment to promote it.
- How will you measure to justify the spend? It’s difficult to track efforts from exposure through account sign up. Even with online marketing efforts. Security issues and systems integration pose sometimes monumental challenges. But don’t use that as an excuse. Get the best data you can. Compare and analyze data sets to find patterns. If all else fails, go old school and simply ask your new clients how they found you and what made them sign up.
- How will you use what you learn? Millennials have no problem telling you what they think. So, you better have a plan for using all that insight that comes out of your efforts. Otherwise they will think that you don’t care. And they will stop caring.
If you have gotten this far, congratulations. You’re ready to create that crazy game/app/meme that will make you a big hit with the Millennials. Better yet, you’ll be successful because you have a relevant offer that delivers real value to your audience and your organization. And that can translate into real potential for your bottom line. Now that sounds like a good reason to work on your relevance with the Millennials.