Tips On Reaching Teens: Know The Language And 'Scene'

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Liberty Marketing Services has this advice for credit unions looking to capture the next generation of members.

Learn to speak their language, plug into their local "teen scene," tune into their interests and offer them practical incentives.

In other words, "be cool," said Tony Rizzo, VP of Sales and Marketing for Liberty. "If you're not cool, you're old. And the last thing you want to be perceived as is old and stodgy.

For example, he said, get involved with teen causes to show you are interested in their social concerns, focus on such things as music, computers and education and lure them to open accounts with stuff they can use, such as shopping certificates.

The recommendations are the result of a two-month study of more than 2,000 teenagers on how and where they learn about financial services, options and issues. The study was conducted by Liberty in conjunction with Teenage Research Unlimited of Northbrook, Ill.

"Most teenagers have tremendous spending power," Rizzo said. "This study clarifies the understanding that to convert them from casual consumers of financial services information to tomorrow's credit union members, you need to get to them early, directly and creatively on the marketing front."

He said Liberty hopes the findings will show credit unions that they need to develop marketing approaches to reach this key demographic.

But all that doesn't mean abandoning your marketing plan geared to their parents. With 89% of teenagers surveyed citing their parents as their primary source for information on financial services, chances are good that marketing efforts focused on them will be passed down.

But, because of parental preference and bias, Rizzo said that appealing directly to the teens can only help.

The survey also showed that nearly 60% of respondents also rely on their school to provide them with specific information on financial aid for college, stocks and related investment tools and taxes.

The remaining 40% who don't utilize school financial information creates a tremendous marketing opportunity for credit unions, he said.

And the best time to strike is during high school when they are starting to think about college, working, moving out on their own.

"That consistent educational message needs to be there and written on their level," Rizzo said, suggesting that be done through local seminars, open houses and face-to-face meetings with loan officers.

Among his suggestions on how to get their attention:

* Stay in touch with trends and speak their language. This is part of that "cool" persona. Use their lingo without going overboard, and show that you care about their music, fashion and sports interests, he said.

* Plug into the local 'teen scene." Get involved with their social causes, become part of their local music interests.

* Tune into their interests. Focus your marketing content on products and services that address their interests in such things as music, computers and education.

* Offer practical incentives. Rizzo said the teens aren't interested in concert or amusement park tickets. They want stuff they can use right now. Try shopping certificates.

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