The Echo Project: A Credit Union Blueprint to Attract Gen-Y

Attracting profitable Gen-Y members has been an on-going challenge for credit unions. But Raoust+Partners, a firm specializing in credit union branding and advertising, thinks they have the solution to this elusive marketing riddle.

They call it The Echo Project, a highly-customizable, geographically tailored Gen-Y program focused primarily on loan growth. According to company president and CEO Olivier Raoust, the initiative is “designed to talk directly to the Echo Boomer/Gen Y crowd in a specific market, and bring in the lucrative loans credit unions are looking for.”

Credit unions have struggled to grow Gen-Y members ever since the term was coined. Today, the average credit union member is 47, nearly 10 years older than the median age of people in the US. Back in 1985, the average age was 40.

“Most credit unions need to bring the average age of their membership down,” notes Raoust. “They have been trying to appeal to the 71 million Echo Boomers in the population — those aged 22 to 34.”

The Echo Project is a white label program — an internal term only. Each credit union deploying The Echo Project will get its own unique name, logo and positioning.

“First and foremost it’s about financial education for Gen-Y,” Raoust explains. ”And number two it is to develop long-term loan relationships with younger members.”

Raoust + Partners promises to find the unique qualities and nuances of each credit union’s particular region, and through a research process, learn how Gen-Y in that area live, work, the schools they go to, events they attend, hangouts they frequent and the characteristics of their communications habits, then eventually funnel all that down to messages, visuals, topics, channels and events.

“Everything is customized for the particular region the credit union serves,” Raoust adds.

“Unfortunately, many credit unions are using canned, off-the-shelf programs that have little impact on the Echo Boomers in their field of membership,” Raoust adds.

The Echo Project is positioned as an alternative to existing Gen-Y programs for credit unions, including Young & Free and On Your Way.

“To effectively address the challenge of reaching this market, you need to do more than insert a ‘youth’ button on your home page or put your logo on a generic site,” Raoust says.

“The tremendous difference The Echo Project offers is that it’s customized especially for the Gen-Y in a credit union’s specific area,” Raoust explains. “As these folks are actively building credit and seeking loans, The Echo Project is designed to speak to them in a way they can relate to and connect with. This is the critical difference between The Echo Project and the cookie-cutter solutions you’ll find available elsewhere.”

The entire Echo Project program includes research, a creative strategy, a media strategy (online, offline and social), a custom-built website, in-branch marketing and debit/credit card designs. The Echo Project also incorporates social media elements including customized Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube channel. Raoust says they will host and manage each Gen-Y microsite it builds for its Echo Project clients, including quarterly refreshes to the site’s content.

What are some of the other critical differences Raoust sees between The Echo Project and what he labels “cookie-cutter solutions?” He says the program is designed for those ages 22 to 34, not high schoolers. Raoust’s Echo Project focused on a Gen-Y audience that is actively building their credit and seeking a resource for loans.

“A 16-year old member with just a checking account is an expense,” Raoust cautions. “A 25-year old member with a few loans and a checking account is a profit builder.”

“Parents are key to the growth of Echo Boomers in your credit union,” Raoust points out.

A Northwestern Mutual poll of college seniors showed that 57% cited a parent as the person they admired and respected the most. Four million Echo Boomers live with their parents, and more than 60% of all college seniors expect to move back home after graduation.

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