As Millennials Age, How Will Your Marketing Strategy Need To Change?

As Millennials get older, they will start looking more and more like Baby Boomers — something that could catch marketers off guard. As Millennials get older, how will bank and credit union marketing plans need to evolve?

Financial marketers that engage Millennial consumers have a tremendous opportunity, it is said, to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and forge long-lasting relationships. Which helps explain why reams of data exist celebrating the differences, attitudes and behavioral characteristics of Millennials — those born between 1980 and 2000.

The appeal of a neatly packaged Millennial marketing strategy is readily apparent. Marketers can quickly craft a strong sales message by matching a segment with a product. Whether targeting Gen X, Millennials or Generation Z, striking consumers’ emotional chords ring up sales.

So what defines a Millennial? According to the Boston Consulting Group, these eight attitudes characterize the Millennial demographic segment:

  1. “I want it fast, and I want it now.”
  2. “I value experience; my friends are credible sources of information.”
  3. “I prefer to do things in groups. I look to family and friends for advice and validation of my choices.”
  4. “People care about what I say, where I am, and what I am doing.”
  5. “Show me the technology!”
  6. “I am socially networked and hyper-connected.”
  7. “I care about myself and the planet. I strive to be clean and green.”
  8. “The world is my oyster.”

From a financial perspective, bank and credit union marketers might add that Millennials value high tech products over a personal experience, use mobile services to a greater degree, prefer emails to written communication, show little loyalty to financial institutions, and are saddled with massive student loans.

Regardless of how attractive a simple, structured, predictable formula for Millennial marketing may be, its value is questionable. For starters, psychologists believe at least half of all personality traits are inherited. Futhermore the underlying premise that all people of a similar age exhibit similar buying behaviors is dubious, particularly as any demographic cohort ages.

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Early in life when kids are younger, it’s easier to spot meaningful generalities; they have more shared, common experiences in their short lifetimes. But as young people move further and further into adulthood, they don’t mature in lock-step as a group nor do their buying habits evolve together.

Bottom line? Millennials won’t remain Millennials — at least not the Millennials we know today. Their values and buying behaviors will change with age and experience. The Millennial son living in his parent’s basement will eventually move out. The daughter with no interest in marriage eventually gets married. Families are started, babies are born. Suddenly, the Millennial who was once the center of their own world now has a new life with big responsibilities… just like all the other adults before them.

Some Millennials are starting to behave like Generation X. They’re saving for their kids’ college education, contributing to retirement accounts, holding credit card debt and want help with investments — all characteristics similar to Gen X.

When selecting a checking account, research suggests Millennials prefer high tech features but as they age, personal, face-to-face interactions become a bigger factor when selecting an institution, and then subsequently driving loyalty to their primary financial institution.

Marketers must ask the question: how long does a Millennial behave like a “Millennial”? Five years? Ten years? How do they change after they get their first job? Or get married? Divorced?

Even deeply-seated Millennial characteristics such as a preference for technology can change as they enter middle-age. Millennials who embraced mobile banking earlier in life might not be willing to accept new banking innovations, preferring to stick with the “old, reliable technology” of their youth. Fear of technology or a privacy breach could also push them to stick with older systems.

A better strategy for acquiring Millennials may be to categorize customers or prospects by lifestyle segments instead of age groups. For instance, research firm Claritas has a program called PRIZM that puts every US household into one of 66 demographically and behaviorally distinct buckets to help marketers discern consumers’ likes, dislikes, lifestyles and purchase patterns. Marketers can append lifestyle data to existing customer files and can quickly see which psychographic segments are attracted to the bank and then mount external campaigns to reach similar prospects.

Lifestyle segmentation is an easy, relatively inexpensive system both for understanding customers and for marketing to diverse and complex audiences. By updating your lifestyle data regularly, your target audience will receive a continuous stream of messages that are relevant to their life stages and income level. And, you can avoid the danger of treating mature Millennials like beer-swilling, club-hopping hipsters.

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