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4 reasons community banks should love millennials

For as long as there have been baby boomers, bank marketing has been focused on this giant demographic bubble. Remember the song, "We've only just begun?" A classic appeal to the confident optimism of the baby boom-originally written as a jingle for a financial institution. Well, considering that people secure their professional relationships by their 40s (typically), and the youngest baby boomers are now well into their 50s, it may be time to focus on a new demographic goldmine, with the same zeal as brand strategies used to tune into the boom.

That said, let's talk millennials-the first generation that has come of age in this century. On the heels of a couple of generations that were problematic for community bank branding strategies, this group has some qualities that should make them a great audience. Here are three reasons:

  1. There are so many of them! The shear scale of the baby boom made them a force in the marketing universe from the late 1950s through ... now. Generations X and Y were tiny by comparison. One reason these two generations feel like they've been overlooked by marketers is that they have. The numbers simply have always favored targeting the zillions of consumers in the boom. But, the millennial generation is roughly equal to the baby boom in population. The critical mass is finally there for turning the focus toward a long-term investment in the generation currently in their twenties.
  2. They get putting the community in community banking. Millennials are all about doing things together. Obviously, when you're talking about tens of millions of individuals, it's dangerous to over generalize. But every report we've seen (as well as our own experience) indicates that millennials are much more positive about their peers, their elders, and their outlook for the future than any living generation! As media becomes more expensive and more cluttered, and as social media gets more fractious, smart community institutions will be investing more strategic thinking and effort into differentiating via community involvement. As you seek to align yourself with causes, you come into step with the zeitgeist of the millennial generation.
  3. They are relational. Millennials understand the need to cooperate. They are inclined to help their neighbors. And they appreciate authentic efforts to help them. Unlike their more suspicious (and cost conscious) elders, millennials are open to a relationship with an institution they believe in. This makes them idea for constructing onboarding best practices designed specifically for bringing them into the circle- capturing core deposits and expanding into other service based on a high-trust relationship. It's the way community banking is supposed to work!
  4. They grew up with technology. It's a fact of life that banking (certainly at the retail level) is going to live or die by how well they anticipate and embrace technological advances. The risk is that as you invest in technology, you have to get your customer base to adopt it. This is far less of a problem with millennials, who grew up with technology and take it for granted. In fact, they expect it. And because it is part of their reality, their expectations are more realistic boomers, who either expect it to be magic think it is a plot to frustrate them.

In the past, the branding firms have built their reputations on either slick design or technological savvy. In the future, the best branding agencies will be the ones who understand the roles people and relationship styles play in your brand. As the millennial generation becomes the new baby boom, understand how to serve them will be crucial. It's a great generation to invest in. Go meet some!

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