Revisit Your Credit Union’s Millennial Strategy

I’ve written off and on about credit unions and millennials. I’ve had the privilege to speak to credit unions and leagues/associations on the topic. Mostly, I think because I’m unabashedly a Millennial myself. Albeit on the older end of the spectrum.


Often, these writing opportunities or speaking engagements begin with:

” tell us about how we can better reach millennials.”

It’s a good prompt. It means credit unions are thinking about segments of their membership. One, that has many credit unions scratching their head.

The issue I often take is when people seek a silver bullet.

I love audience segmentation. As a marketer, it’s crucial to what I do.

But I’m also a social scientist.

So when I’m asked to give a few bullet items on reaching the largest generation since the Boomers, I  get a bright white flash and inevitably end up here Instead:

[ctt title=”Credit Unions should ask: What can we learn from millennials?” tweet=”What can credit unions learn from millennials?” coverup=”4dQ25″]

Let me explain why

Who Are Millennials?

You likely have your assumptions about the millennials generation. They’re lazy, broke and myriad other adjectives, most of them unflattering.

When talking about generations, it’s difficult. Cohorts span significant periods of time. With millennials, in particular, at this moment in their life, we’re spanning a period that can cover high school and college graduation, entering the workforce and starting a family and settling down.  Each one of these carries it’s own set of psychographic characteristics and maturity to individuals.

Instead, let’s look at facts, not adjectives.

The millennials have become the largest generational cohort since the boomers, various research centers put the group between 75 – 80 million strong in the U.S.

Size of Millennial Generation

This generation grew up in a world marked by tragedy and uncertainty: 9/11, economic collapse, and the world at war in multiple zones.

But perhaps most interesting, is with size comes a significant economic force. As the economy recovers, and the generation matures, it’s becoming clear that millennials DO have assets. However, the approach to personal finance and spending is different than in the past.

Millennial generation economic power

Understanding Early Adoption Theory

The millennial generation was the generation that brought Facebook to worldwide, mass adoption, by all segments of the population.  They were among the first to become glued to their smartphones and to trust an algorithm, not a person, with their retirement.

By all accounts, the Millennial generation represents early adopters.

In hordes, they use Uber over taxis, AirBnB over traditional lodging. They represent the upslope in the adoption bell curve of the Diffusion of Innovation Theory. In a nutshell, the theory attempts to explain how products, ideas and other innovations spread throughout a group of people. It suggests that adoption moves representative to a bell curve where adoption begins with innovators and early adopters before moving out into the bulk of the population. Businesses will often assign time periods to sections of the bell curve to help facilitate product updates or release of new products all together to keep a steady flow of innovation being released into the mainstream.

Early Adopters - Diffusion of Innovation

But here’s the rub.

During their late teens to early thirties, most generations have a period where they spend time in this portion of the curve.

That’s not to say as a generation ages they never return, however, every generation brings with it innovations and leads the charge with the adoption of innovation that inevitably starts to spread across a populace.

The Canary In the Coal Mine

If it stands to reason that Millennials aren’t just a field of membership segment needing to be reached,  but rather early adopters who indicate potential trends that may spread across your field of membership, what should a credit union do?

Look at what they’re doing and consider these new trends across other segments.

Diffusion of innovation - majority

For example.

Rewind to 2004 as Facebook began spreading across college campuses, then the general public. Along came Twitter, and YouTube continued its growth. As social media continued to pick up steam, particularly among millennials, many credit unions and other organizations sat watching, calling it a young person fad that had no implications to business.


  • 40% of the mass affluent over age 55, use social media to discover and select financial institutions. (source: Cogent Research)
  • 63% of investors have picked or changed a stock in their portfolio based on social media influence (source: Think Advisor)
  • 75% of the underbanked can be reached and helped via social media (source: Pew Research)

Instead of looking at the trend as something affecting only millennials, ask yourself: what might this look like if this trend spreads across other segments of my field of membership? 

In this case, the diffusion of innovation theory would shift the thinking to deliver something like: social media is an emerging channel that distributes a variety of information. How can my credit union leverage this near free channel to disseminate personal finance and investment information to the rest of our field of membership to meet their financial needs as their adoption of the channel increases? 

Of course, in this scenario we have the benefit of hindsight.

What Happens When The Prompt Changes

When your credit union shifts it’s thinking from “how do we reach millennials” to “what can we learn from millennials” a few things happen.

First, your credit union leadership becomes proactive, instead of reactive, creating strategies that put you ahead of the curve.

You’re not just reacting to a shift in how a segment of your field of membership is behaving; you’re planning on how shifts may spread across your field of membership as a whole.

Second, you kill two birds with one stone. In the process of setting your credit union up strategically across other field of membership segments, you accomplish what you originally set out to achieve: reaching millennials.

But in the process, instead of just putting out a fire with one segment, you’ve strengthened your overall credit union’s approach for other segments as adoption picks up.

Finally, you start to create a culture of innovation.

This is related to becoming proactive versus reactive. When your credit union starts to look trends holistically, you start to see bigger and bigger pictures and can plan accordingly.


Leveraging Digital to Reach Your Credit Union’s Hispanic Field of Membership

The U.S. Hispanic population continues to be a rapidly growing segment of super consumers and one that is increasingly digitally savvy. U.S. census data shows that since the 1970s, the population of Hispanics in the United States has grown 592%. In the first decade of the 2000s alone, Hispanics made up more than half of total U.S. population growth.

Reaching Your Credit Unions Hispanic Members

This segment of the U.S. population packs a powerful economic punch with buying power estimated to reach $1.5 trillion this year (2015).

With such a large demographic segment in population and economic scope, credit unions with a large Hispanic population falling within their field of membership need to tap into this opportunity.

Historically, beliefs around Hispanic marketing has focused on reaching family units and traditional media as core to Hispanic marketing.

New research into the online behaviors of the U.S. Hispanic population sheds light on behaviors that credit union marketers whose field of memberships include Hispanic populations should take note of.

Hispanic Population More Attentive To Online Advertising

Historically, the family unit and television have been key pillars in Hispanic marketing plans. However research from Google indicates that U.S. Hispanics use online sources at a rate higher than the general internet population (54% vs. 46%) throughout their purchase decision favoring online above family, radio and tv.

When it comes to online advertising, 66% of Hispanics pay attention to ads a full 20 percent more than the general internet populations.

Key takeaway: Online advertising is a crucial new pillar of a modern, Hispanic marketing planning. If additional budget can’t be secured, consider reallocating from traditional media to digital channels to reach this crucial segment. 

Search Is A Crucial Step In The Journey

In the same Google report,  nearly 80% of Hispanics say search his their #1 online tool in gathering information for decision making.

Combine this with the rate of adoption for mobile as a primary tool for online activity (42% vs. 33% for non-Hispanic according to Specific Media) search, both paid and organic and mobile optimized is critical.

Key Takeaway: Search is a crucial tool. Credit unions should look to bolster their paid search position and ramp up efforts in organic search with strong social media and content marketing efforts. Support all of this with a mobile friend user experience on your credit union’s marketing website and landing pages or microsites. 

Spanish, Culture and What Matters

Finally, culture, naturally, is crucial. Google reports that 70% of Hispanics find a website’s cultural relevance to be important when gathering information. Nearly half feel more favorable towards a brand who shows cultural relevance which is important because research from the Pew Hispanic Trends team shows it takes a great deal to get Hispanics to switch brands.

So what matters, culturally speaking?

Well, according to Google, the notion that Spanish “always” has to be used, is outdated.

Search trends for Spanish keywords are rising, 65%-500% from 2011 – 2014 across product categories. However in their research, only about 1/3 of respondents are dominantly Spanish speaking and nearly 95% are comfortable consuming English content online.

A thoughtful approach to blending both Spanish and English seems like a good approach. Overall the key is to be relevant so if a credit union ventures into the Spanish language with ads and content, do it well.

Key takeaway: Culture is important. Credit Union’s should be thoughtful about creating experiences from ads to content and microsites that reflect Hispanic culture. That doesn’t mean everything has to be spanish. Take a thoughtful approach and whatever your credit union does, do it thoroughly. Winning the Hispanic population is a loyal population and worth the time to do it right. 


Credit Unions: Help out Millennial Dads

I’ve written in the past about how credit unions can better reach millennials. The truth is, the millennial opportunity is a well-known one for credit unions. The generation shows a high loyalty for socially responsible, community-oriented brands and are willing to spend more supporting those brands. Contrary to popular belief, Pew Research indicates their top priorities are being a good parent among other family-oriented concerns. Credit unions and millennials should be a match made in heaven.

credit unions help millennial dads

However, credit unions continue to struggle to reach this elusive segment. Within the generational cohort exists an emerging new segment that could be a new opportunity for credit union marketers: the millennial dad.

Redefining the role of dad

With 100 million millennials in the U.S., many are growing into adulthood and with this aging demographic cohort comes a new definition of dad. Many studies find millennial dads to be far more involved in household shopping and decision making as well as spending more time with their kids and involved in the family planning process than their predecessors.

Pew research echoes this changing trend in “dad” across demographics with the number of stay at home dads doubling over the past 20 years.

Dad trends

With this shift in the role of dad comes a new opportunity for credit unions to be present and help a new generation looking for the information to plan their family needs.

The online super-dad

According to a report from Google,

“88% of millennial dads feel it’s at least somewhat important to be ‘the perfect dad’, a higher percentage than millennial moms feel about their own role.”

Among the largest opportunities for credit unions are location-based searches, think banks near me, financial advisor near me etc.

“Near me” related searches across demographics has increased 34x since 2011, doubling since last year alone according to Google Trends data.

The way millennial dads go about achieving their “super dad” goal is being involved and finding the answers to ‘go’, ‘do’ and ‘buy’ moments instantly, online. But the same report finds that nearly 70% of millennial dads feel there isn’t enough content online that answers their questions while being dad focused.

Read: content that answers “what dad’s can do to prepare for baby’s college fund,’ etc.

Credit Union Content Marketing Opportunity

Credit union’s have an opportunity to be present for a new generation of millennial super-dads by creating and producing the content they’re seeking in a dad- friendly, dad-centric way. With nearly 60% of millennial dad’s using smartphones to conduct their searches, mobile friendly content is crucial. These ‘do’, ‘go’ and ‘buy’ moments represent micro-moments and winning them with millennials create lasting loyalty.

Credit Union Takeaways

  • Millennial dads are an emerging market opportunity
  • Reach them with dad specific content that empowers them in the family planning process
  • Build content mobile first


bank and credit union marketing swot analysis