The Me-Too Window Will Soon Be Closing

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I had the opportunity this week to hear the story of Commonwealth CU’s Young and Free Alberta (Y&F) Gen Y marketing campaign not once, but twice. Not only did I get to sit in on Tim McAlpine’s presentation (co-presented with Morriss Partee) at the CUES Experience conference, but I had lunch with Tim on Tuesday and heard the back story in all its goryious detail (typo intentional).

The Y&F story is a great example of how one financial institution successfully attracted new members from the Gen Y generation to its credit union. It’s definitely a best practice (just kidding).

Apparently, though, other FIs do think it’s a best practice. CU Tomorrow recently called attention to some marketing campaigns from both Scotiabank and Utah Community Credit Union aimed at attracting Gen Yers. Ben points out that both efforts incorporate a lot of interactivity (“don’t want to launch a young adult site without video these days”), an access card, and “surreptitious but constant marketing.” In other words, just like the Y&F campaign.

Will Scotiabank’s and Utah Community CU’s efforts succeed? Maybe. Probably. I have no reason to believe that they won’t succeed, at least to a certain extent.

But I’ll tell you what I do have reason to believe: That the more FIs that go to market with this approach, the less likely it is that they will succeed.

Just as my generation didn’t want its father’s Oldsmobiles, Gen Yers don’t want their fathers’ financial institutions, nor do they want to be marketed to the way FIs marketed themselves to Gen Yers’ fathers (I’m not being sexist, here, banks just don’t do much marketing to Gen Yers’ mothers as far as I can tell).

So let me ask you this: How long will it take before Gen Yers realize that the Bank of Fill-In-The-Blank’s Gen Y marketing campaign is a direct ripoff of the five (or ten or twenty) bank/credit union campaigns that came before it?

And let me ask you this: Do you think Gen Yers will really consider those efforts to be truly authentic appeals to engage them, and win their business?

My answers: Not very long and NFW.

My take: The window for “me-too” marketing campaigns from FIs targeted at Gen Yers is rapidly closing.

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a report called Why Banks Can’t Afford To Ignore Gen Yers: Understanding The Financial Needs And Behaviors Of The Young Consumer. The response to that report was the closest thing to hate mail that I ever got. One senior marketing exec at a large bank told me, in not so many words, how stupid I was for suggesting that her bank focus on Gen Yers.

From my perspective, FIs have had four years to figure out how to attract and market to Gen Yers. Today, it seems like they’re falling over each other, and copying the same pages out of the playbook in order to attract this market.

Me-too marketing isn’t going to work for long with this segment. Sloppy seconds might still make a decent meal. But I wouldn’t want to be the third bank or credit union in a particular market rehashing the Y&F approach.

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