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Generation isn’t everything when targeting membership

Millennials don’t watch network TV or read newspapers. So credit unions should save flashy marketing brochures and broadcast spots for technophobic Baby Boomers and Gen Xers and rely on mobile phones to attract 20-somethings, right?

Alas, if it was only that simple. Today, the work that goes into reaching target audiences, regardless of their season of life, is more complex than ever. To navigate this tricky landscape, Enterprise asked two marketing experts for help in drawing a roadmap.

Fish where the fish are swimming

Digital and mobile platforms are a natural avenue to consider for anyone looking to attract Millennials, the world’s first true digital natives. But older Canadians are also proving avid consumers of online content. Gen Xers are leaders in video downloading and streaming, according to recent research out of the U.S. Meanwhile, Boomers are adopting smartphones and jumping onboard social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter at an unprecedented rate.

Yet Michael Rodenburgh, executive vice president for Ipsos in Western Canada, believes great opportunities still exist to reach every demographic through print, radio and television. Recent Nielsen data found that the 18-to-24-year-old set is still watching more than 17 hours per week of traditional TV.

He says credit unions should regularly monitor changes in the preferred platforms of their target audience, determine the ones most authentic to their brand and customize the message to fit these specifics. Yes, there are lots of eyeballs on digital and lots on mobile, but “To tie all your opportunities to one medium is a recipe for disaster,” says Rodenburgh.

Don’t confuse generation and life stage

It make it good sense to draw lines based on age. But remember that two people of the same generation may not share interests or ideas, says Bill Reihl, managing director of global brand marketing for Ketchum, a New York-based agency. In a recent survey, Ketchum found important differences between Millennial men, for example. Younger Millennial males (18 to 25 years) tend to be significantly more conservative than their older brothers (26 to 35 years) about relationships, sex, health, appearance and careers.

Pay attention to subtle differences within demographic categories when considering targeting techniques

Many Gen Xers and Boomers defy stereotypes, too. While some are retired and planning to ride that Harley across the country, others are raising children and carrying a mortgage. The lesson: pay attention to subtle differences within demographic categories when considering targeting techniques, says Reihl.

Stay real and stay relevant

Boomers are still the best source of marketing opportunities, these experts say. Collectively, they represent the wealthiest generation ever. A shift is happening, however. Millennials and Gen Xers will inherit these fortunes. But unlike their forbears, they don’t seem all that interested in material possessions. Studies show many would rather go bungee jumping or drink craft beer than save for a house.

Still, both Rodenburgh and Reihl see a big opportunity for credit unions to strengthen their brand and win the loyalty of potential new members from these demographics. “Don’t push your message on Millennials,” Reihl cautioned. “Empower them. Let them engage on their terms by being interesting, valuable and honest. Then, watch them become your ambassadors.” ◊