Generation X? So Old School. The Emphasis Now Is On The 'Millenials'

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The Millenials are coming...are credit unions ready?

The vanguard of the Baby Boomer generation is pushing 60 and preparing to set a retirement date. The youngest members of Generation X are about 24 years old and are no longer the new kids on the block. That honor goes to Generation Y, also known as the Millenials, whose members were born between 1982 and 2002.

According to Shannon Ingram, a marketing and communications consultant from Costa Mesa, Calif., credit unions need to begin preparing for the arrival into adulthood of the Millenials. Ingram, who led an educational session at the recent CUES Nexus conference here, said Generation Y is 53-million strong, or about the same size as the Boomer generation.

"Most of them are in high school now; Millenials make up just 7% of the adult population," she said. "They are confident and upbeat, education-minded, tolerant and accepting of diversity. They are more conservative than Generation X, but not as skeptical. Family really matters to them because parents stay together more often than Boomers."

Some of the marketing techniques that have been successful in recent years with Generation X also apply to Generation Y, Ingram said. Generation X-those born between 1965 and 1981- comprises 25% of the adult population. Technology is king with both.

"Generation X is online all the time. The Internet is a way of life. They read the newspaper online," she continued. "Their buying behaviors are immediacy, independence and innovation. They have no brand loyalty, which is a very important piece of information for those in the credit union industry."

Advertising campaigns aimed at Generation X have followed four basic rules: use visuals, make it educational, offer value and use their language. "Remember that hype 'sucks' and creativity 'rules,'" said Ingram.

Millenials, on the other hand, grew up in a zero-tolerance environment. They watched President Bill Clinton squirm through a televised sex scandal, braced for Y2K, saw peers gunned down at Columbine and other schools, and, of course, they saw the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But unlike Generation X, which included the "latch-key" kids of the 1980s who developed a sense of alienation, members of Generation Y embrace community service. They feel they have a rendezvous with destiny, Ingram said.

"For credit unions to market to Millenials, technology really is the way. They will respond better to an e-mail or an interactive Website than other forms of advertising."

Marketing campaigns aimed at Generation Y should stress simplicity and resist commercialism, she continued. They are significantly less edgy than Generation X, and want to connect on an emotional level. Millenials want empowerment, positive messages, a respect for diversity, and distinctive product and service benefits.

While Generation X is typified by the popularity of Backpackers Express Airline, Generation Y's hallmark appears to be the World Dodgeball Association, Ingram said.

"Dodgeball has become a really cool thing for the older members of Generation Y, from high school up to 22 years old. If credit unions want to target Generation Y, they are going to have to make it fun. Even goofy."

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