Gen Zers Overlook Brand Messaging: Here’s How Banks Can Capture Their Loyalty.

Gen Zers know how to spot a marketing campaign. But with some well-targeted messaging, community banks can capture the attention — and the business — of this generation.

Gen Zers are the first generation of digital natives. They’ve had access to iPhones, tablets, and high speed internet practically since birth — and they can spot an ad in record time.

All of this tech savvy means that Gen Zers are more desensitized to digital advertising — and are much less likely to pay attention to brand messaging compared to their millennial, Gen Xer, and Baby Boomer counterparts. This presents a challenge for marketers, who may need to rethink their strategies to better target the youngest generation of American workers.

“They have grown up with so much advertising thrown at them,” says Katya Varbanova, a brand marketing consultant. “They are the first generation that can genuinely tell when they are being marketed to and they hate extreme overly promotional messages.”

It’s especially critical for community banks and credit unions to get their advertising right, otherwise they will lose Gen Z customers to competitors like fintechs and neobanks — which are already popular among the demographic. What’s more, 38% of Gen Zers say they feel minimal loyalty to banks, and 25% say they are impressed by banks that can provide superior technology, according to the 2024 Vericast Financial Services Trend Watch Report. As Gen Zers become a bigger percentage of the American workforce, and have more of a need for financial products, it’s important that community banks and credit unions stay ahead of the curve.

“It starts with understanding the Gen Z values and being able to communicate that with their overall brand messaging, to showcase that you understand them,” Varbanova says.

While it may not be easy to capture the attention of Gen Zers, there are some strategies that savvy marketers can use to make sure their messages don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Get Online, But Don’t Neglect Other Platforms

Unsurprisingly, digital marketing and advertising is the main way that brands connect with Gen Zers. This generation tends to prefer advertising on the internet, digital radio, social media and video content on mobile devices, according to data from Prosper.

But don’t ignore other advertising channels either. While it is still best to connect with all generations online, there also may be opportunities to reach Gen Zers in more traditional ways offline, says Lisa Nicholas, senior vice president of Financial Institute, Marketing Product and Strategy at Vericast. This is especially true for smaller banks that may not be able to put the money behind a robust digital marketing campaign.

“[Gen Zers] have been on multiple devices, I think they’re very savvy,” Nicholas says. “But I also think that we see some of the traditional media that resonates with all generations, like print. Print works with all generations. You have to cut through so many digital advertisements, which can be a challenge.”

Whoever is responsible for marketing they really need to step out of their comfort zone and become a consumer of Gen Z culture.”

— Katya Varbanova,

There’s also other unconventional digital platforms that could be explored. For example, data shows that 38% of Gen Zers in 2023 engage with advertisements in video games. That’s up from 29% in 2018, according to Prosper data.

But no matter what the avenue you decide to explore, it’s important to test your strategy first, Nicholas says. Doing a trial campaign before committing to a full marketing plan can be a safe way to see if it will resonate.

“If you’re a smaller institution working in different markets, test what messages work in different areas before you do a full launch. It’s about understanding your target audience,” Nicholas says.

Read more about gen Z trends:

Become a Consumer of Gen Z Content

Gen Zers are spending several hours per day on social media — with Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube ranking among their favorite platforms, according to the Global Web Index. Varbanova recommends that marketers spend some time on each platform to familiarize themselves with it. Study content from Gen Z creators in your space, and see how you might be able to fit into the conversation.

“I would consult Gen Z creators that are constantly going viral, who are obsessing over the trends and the data,” Varbanova says. “Whoever is responsible for marketing they really need to step out of their comfort zone and become a consumer of Gen Z culture.”

But before you go and make a TikTok account, remember to only invest in a new social media vertical after doing some research. Missing the mark in a big way on social media could be worse for the brand than simply not engaging at all.

If you do decide to engage, make sure your message is authentic and fits the identity of the bank. “It’s about leveraging the power of brand personality, brand archetypes, and carving a personality for your brand that you can feel connected to,” Varbanova says.

Showcase What You Care About

Gen Zers want to spend their money with companies that are socially responsible. They care about issues like mental health, racial and gender equity, LGBTQ+ rights and the environment. Gen Zers want the companies they support to care about the same things, Varbanova says. For example, 53% of Gen Zers want brands where they shop to support mental health awareness, according to a survey from ICSC and Big Village.

“If you can showcase that you’re committed to equity to everyone. If you can showcase that you’re a company that pays your employees fairly. I think the biggest overall message is that as a brand, do you keep all the profits for yourself and your shareholders, or does everyone that works for you also benefit from that,” she says.

Marketers at community banks and credit unions, for example, could showcase how the bank supports the local community or a specific charity. Banks can also highlight the work of employees or clients. There are many different ways that marketers could demonstrate a bank’s commitment to social responsibility. But regardless of the method, it’s important to be authentic.

“How do we make the world more equitable, less stressful, more focused on mental health, more focus on open mindedness,” Varbanova says. “The brands that I find that Gen Z really resonates with, are the ones that are openly coming out and saying we are giving back to the community in this way.”

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