10 Things Youth Marketing Should Involve

What does it take for a financial institution to execute a comprehensive youth marketing program? While there’s no magic formula, a good place to start is with a well-integrated, multichannel plan of action that addresses every imaginable opportunity to engage your audience. Let’s take a closer look and break it down. Here’s a list of what financial institutions need to do to execute a robust, productive youth marketing program (in no particular order):

1.) Offer comprehensive, lesson-based financial education.
Besides the goodwill you’ll generate by providing much-needed financial education, youth marketing success hinges on the ability of your audience to understand the function of your products and services. You can’t encourage someone to open a checking account if they don’t know what one is, or worse, doesn’t care.

2.) Provide data-enriched direct marketing for parents.
Almost every study regarding marketing financial services to youth suggest the same exact thing: parents are the real gatekeepers — even when targeting young adults. And what’s still an effective way to find and communicate with mom and dad? Smart direct marketing. Contrary to what some believe, traditional marketing is not dead yet. It still works.

3.) Execute social media campaigns and leverage them with traditional marketing.
Establishing a social media presence is only a beginning. Engage your audience and make an emotional connection through listening and response. Create different ways for young members to interact with your brand. This can be through contests, scholarships or challenges. Leverage these efforts with traditional marketing strategies to ensure a 360 degree experience.

4.) Build your brand for the long-term.
Awareness campaigns, and not just product sales, is critical to the long-term success of any youth program. A teen may not be in the market for a car loan today, but if he has a positive image of your company, he’s more inclined to look to you in the future. (Note to CFOs: Not every marketing dollar will generate a demonstrable ROI at the end of the fiscal year.)

5.) Offer a continuous stream of content to engage the audience.
Fresh content will help generate relevancy, credibility, and perhaps even a little entertainment, all which go a long way towards keeping them engaged. Offer content in as many different formats as possible — online articles, newsletter, magazine, video, podcast, blog, music, etc. — and let them decide which they prefer.

6.) Gear up for events and community marketing.
Yes, your target audience lives online, but they also have lives offline as well. Get your brand out from behind your website and into the community. Let young members put a face to your message.

7.) Provide on-campus branch support.
(Where applicable.) An on-campus branch doesn’t necessarily mean you have the attention of the student body. Support your efforts with signage, school-related campaigns (e.g., prom loans), program ads, street teams and event marketing to become a familiar part of the campus experience.

8.) Have tools available to transition kids into your teen program,
and tools that get teens into to your young adult program.
What happens when a child, teen, or young adult outgrows their respective youth program? Don’t waste years of nurturing (and marketing dollars!) by failing to transition younger members through each stage of life. Be one step ahead of them and don’t assume that they’ll keep their account with you as they age.

9.) Provide a ‘Mint’ type of online banking experience.
How functional is your current website? What is your online banking experience like? Youth expectations are high when it comes to technology, and they don’t care how difficult or expensive it is for you to offer services like account aggregation. They just know they want it — and for free!

10.) Stay on top of current youth culture.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of youth culture will help you stay connected with trends and behaviors that may impact your efforts. Create a youth advisory board or partner with a youth research agency. Get connected to youth marketing professionals on Twitter and read related blogs. Join organizations such as the National Youth Involvement Board and attend youth-focused conferences.

See anything missing?
Please share your insights and experiences related to financial youth marketing.

James Flores is the CEO of Subcat Marketing, specializing in helping financial marketers reach “sub-categories” such as kids, teens, young adult and family markets. The firm develops fully-custom youth marketing and education programs for financial institutions across the country, and also offers a turnkey program for teens called The Elements of Money, the M3 Money Club for kids, and a financial newsletter for Gen-X parents.


This article was originally published on February 18, 2010. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. William Myers says:

    What’s missing? Products! Where’s the reverse tier savings account, the first-time auto loan, the starter VISA credit card, the direct deposit pitch, the student loan, the prepaid card, the youth advisory board? Unless a credit union has a product suite that responds to this market (and most don’t) the marketing blitz will lead to disappointed new members.

  2. Excellent article, I think people often forget about #2.

  3. Very strong points, and I thing you lead off with one of the most important aspects, education, and awareness. The most difficult part of that is creating it in a fresh and evolving format that will keep a generation; immersed in technology and hyper-connectivity, engaged. (Also something you bring up in point number 5.)

    Finding ways to make financial products relevant is no small feat and using multiple channels is a big key. Finding a way to get them to look, well that takes some innovative approaches. Look forward to more conversation on the topic


    Scott Moriarty
    Thwakk, Inc.

  4. Great article – I especially agree with points 1 and 4. A lesson based program may feel like a waste of resources and not have a great ROI, but the agenda has always got to be raising financial awareness so that this generation aren’t of the spend now, save later mindset. And this of course builds the brand, encourages loyalty and leaves the door open for when these young kids do become fully function, financially capable adults.

  5. No doubt that initially ROI may be difficult to justify. However, it has to be more than just awareness. The goal is to modify future behavior, and finding a way to take an overwhelming amount of information and put it in their context.

    Create a campaign that builds trust by providing value to them. No doubt kids say they want to know more about Financial matters, they are not learning it from their parents, and they are not getting it in school. Or if they are getting it there, it is not working in it’s current format. the 2008 Jump$tart results were still only 48% after a decade of testing and an explosion of these types of initiatives. Couple education with real world incentives and further motivation to learn more, then you will have your ROI in the future….

    A trusting, long term, educated customer/member. Like you say in point 4 it has to be long term…

  6. Social Tool says:

    Great points! One of the most important things to remember when treading a younger demographic is getting an idea of what can make them care, or listen. You should know which pulse points to press, and then you can start with spreading information and developing a marketing strategy for them.

  7. Great points, especially #8 – retaining the customer from a young age allows huge returns over the life of the customer.

  8. Live music. Music is the lyrical language of gen next. Today 200 students in Texas got a financial literacy lesson delivered with live music and the place was insane. Good luck finding a show on Nick or Disney that does not feature a band or musical theme. Youth Marketing without live music is not youth marketing. And every one of those kids will tell there parents about the show. Honestly, You allude to it in #5 but the kids don’t care about podcasts or blogs. And in a day of Glee, Idol, Guitar Hero and all the music/band themed shows on Nick and Disney, it should have been #1.

  9. Hello Jason,

    I just so happened to stumble on the article and saw you posted a comment (albeit a few months ago). I totally agree with you on the impact music has on youth culture. Yes, I alluded to it in #5, but in all honesty, I was really thinking about programs like Eloquent when I referred to “gearing up for events” in #6. It also applies to #7 (provide on-campus branch support with event marketing). Anytime you can directly engage the youth demo like you did in Texas (or more recently in Alaska), you stand a better chance of holding their attention. You know that first-hand!

    Now, with that said, I truly believe integrating music is only a portion of the puzzle. I think it’s extremely important that we provide financial information in many different formats. Long after the concerts have ended, financial institutions must stay plugged in with their audience. Giving students a choice for content consumption is just plain smart, since it’s impractical to hold a concert every time we need to get their attention. On the other hand, a podcast may be used in a classroom setting to convey a financial concept, or a teacher may choose to use a relevant blog post as the basis of a lesson plan.

    Will students actively seek these sources out on their own? Not unless they are informed of their value. This is part of the educational process. Does anyone like going to the dentist? No, but once people understand the value of annual check-ups (which most people learn at a very early age), they’ll get their butt in the dentist chair to avoid tooth decay.

    We need to educate students that by staying informed, (i.e. reading articles or listening to a 3-minute podcast at their CU website) they can learn things that can have a long-lasting impact on their lives. Once students recognize the value in what is available to them, they’ll be more inclined to search for that content in the future. Now, it’s just up to us to make it interesting and relevant. Topics like “what to do if your PS3 account is hacked”, or “how to avoid getting ripped off by fees” are issues that surely will capture the attention of any teen.

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