Millenniels, Mirth, and Money: Making Gen Y Laugh and Learn Pays for Credit Unions (Part III)

This is the last post in a three part series on Gen Y  and credit unions by guest author, Kathy Klotz-Guest. The first two posts can be read here. The final post focuses on apps and games, as well as social networks. Read more below:

Apps and games: Another great way to increase engagement is to offer fun mobile and web-based applications that help people manage their finances. Infusing applications and great content with immersive gaming elements encourages interactions that are easily shareable with peers.  A great example of this approach is the game “Nickled and Dimed” at creditunionfacts.com. The object of this game is to save Joe from getting barraged by bank fees, and, by doing so, build up savings. Similarly, Park City Credit Union in Merrill, Wisconsin offers an online simulation game with avatars called “Money Mission” aimed at helping teens learn real-life financial skills. Players are eligible to win scholarships.

Another example of an application that allows users to manage their money using their mobile device (there is also an app specifically for the iPhone) is PNC’s virtual wallet application. Credit unions have been slow to take the app plunge, although this is an area to add value and have some fun at the same time. According to ComScore, the Gen Y population, estimated at 79 million with about $170 billion in annual purchasing power, uses mobile banking more than any other age group (Jan 2012).

Another fun way to provide great content is via podcasts. Recently, I listened to a podcast given by a credit union on refinancing. The delivery was staged as a fun newscast filled with great information.

Social networks: One of the most important ways to reach Gen Y members is by allowing them to share information using social networks. This facilitates peer recommendations, and there are few things as influential as recommendations from a peer group. A credit union in Canada, for example, created a community, Young and Free Alberta (youngfreealberta.com) to enable Gen Y users to discuss, share, educate and comment on issues relating to credit and money. In addition to a video series on different topics, the site offers contests including a chance to be the paid voice for Young and Free for a year.

Burbank City FCU also mixes media, including Facebook, to encourage participation. One contest, based on the premise that nobody wants to spend more time on banking, asks users to submit a photo of what they would rather be doing (stand-up comedy, skydiving, fishing, hot air ballooning, going to the dentist!). Contestants are then entered into a drawing for $100.

Fun should not be hard!

Integrating fun and humor into your social marketing strategies for all members—especially Gen Y members—can help you cut through the noise in a crowded market. Keep it simple. Start with a great story that connects at a human level and offers value. Experiment a little and see what works best for you. Educate, inform, entertain and delight your customers by surprising them.

Funny is great, but just having fun is a great start. Besides, you can’t get to funny without having ‘fun’ first. Really. Try spelling it!

About Kathy Klotz-Guest: Kathy Klotz-Guest, CEO of Keeping it Human, helps organizations connect with audiences on a human level and get better marketing results. In her 20-year career, she has led successful marketing and communications strategies for high-tech, financial and services firms. A founding fellow for the Society for New Communications Research and comic improviser with the ComedySportz San Jose Rec League, she can be reached at kathy@keepingithuman.com, or via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Millenniels, Mirth, and Money: Making Gen Y Laugh and Learn Pays for Credit Unions (Part II)

This is the second of a three part series on Gen Y  and credit unions by guest author, Kathy Klotz-Guest. The first post was published last week, and can be read here. The second part of this series discusses using videos, contests and social media. Read more below:

Video: Gen Y consumers watch a lot of online video (research firm ComScore reports the average American viewed over 23 hours of video in the month of December 2011) and, today, a growing number are watching them on mobile devices. Video is your chance to connect with this audience at a human level in ways that traditional media cannot. Based on research I have conducted with more than 100 companies, the most important factor in video success is having a great story that is relevant to your audience. If your video happens to go viral, that’s great. Your goal, however, is to connect with your audience in a meaningful way and prompt them to take some specific call to action.

If computer giant IBM, viewed as stodgy and out of touch just 10 years ago, can change its image and poke fun of itself in the now famous “Art of the Sale” videos, so can credit unions. Video should humanize your brand, not bore people. That’s what collateral is for! There are credit unions creating some innovative and funny videos. One of the best videos to speak about the benefits of credit unions is a spoof of Apple’s celebrated Mac v. PC ads (Bankerspank.com or YouTube). The younger, cool guy represents the credit union, while the stodgy, “stuffed suit” represents the bank.

This video series, a handful in all, works well for a number of reasons. First, it’s a funny parody of well-known commercials. Secondly, it uses elements of “story” and metaphor to make its points, and to connect on a human level. The fact that a Gen Y actor plays the ‘cool’ role of the credit union—the banking equivalent of a Mac—is salient. Thirdly, the video series also educates younger viewers on the important differences between banks and credit unions without trying to sell a particular credit union.

Finally, it upends expectations about the way credit unions are marketed. It’s even okay for your credit union to poke fun at itself and its history (for example, maybe you haven’t always been on the vanguard of technology adoption)—as long as you demonstrate that you have changed and are looking to create better relationships with younger customers. Humor shows humility, and it signals to your audience, “Hey! We get it. We know how we have been perceived, and we’re ready to change.”

Another example of a fun video that shows credit unions with personality is “The Winning Team” by University of Kentucky (UK) Federal Credit Union. It shows a handful of bored Gen Y credit union employees who start an impromptu baseball game in the office. The fun is unexpectedly endorsed by the boss. Besides providing a great laugh, this video did not cost much to produce. Quality content is not the same as quality production. Content trumps production values, according to my research on video storytelling. The potency of the message is an important one: This credit union believes fun and service are all parts of a compatible winning team that serves, and is served by, Gen Y members. This matters, given that the credit union is associated with a university system. It’s a good example of what a lighthearted tone (and a relevant message) without a heavy budget can do. And just as with the Credit Union v. Bank video, this video is short. The ideal video is under two minutes.

Contests: Social media also enables content to be interactive and shared in a way traditional media does not, so take advantage of its participatory elements. People love to create and share their own content. Allowing users to participate by creating their own media (CGM, consumer-generated media) is a way to increase engagement and fun and enable your audience to help tell your story to peers. It’s also a great way to stretch your marketing budget and ensure that content is created by your intended audience with their own needs in mind. Fairfax Credit Union in Virginia launched a video contest for the Gen Y Extreme Checking Account commercial (on YouTube). They invited members of Gen Y to create short 30-second videos about the credit union’s new Gen Y Extreme Checking service.

This effort worked on a number of levels. First, it facilitated awareness and engaged Gen Y members to create content and, in turn, educate their peers about the new “Extreme” service. Secondly, the videos were funny, absurd and odd— an authentic reflection of Gen Y humor created by Gen Y participants. Finally, by inviting members to create their own videos, the credit union expanded its reach without having to create all of its own content. Often, an organization’s best storytellers come from outside its walls. Your engaged fans are your best and most credible referral sources. Just remember to make it fun, encourage creativity and allow them to share their creations on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Stay tuned for the last post in this series!

About Kathy Klotz-Guest: Kathy Klotz-Guest, CEO of Keeping it Human, helps organizations connect with audiences on a human level and get better marketing results. In her 20-year career, she has led successful marketing and communications strategies for high-tech, financial and services firms. A founding fellow for the Society for New Communications Research and comic improviser with the ComedySportz San Jose Rec League, she can be reached at kathy@keepingithuman.com, or via LinkedIn and Twitter.

Millenniels, Mirth, and Money: Making Gen Y Laugh and Learn Pays for Credit Unions (Part I)

This is the first of a three part series on Gen Y by guest author, Kathy Klotz-Guest.

Today’s financial institutions, like other industry sectors, recognize how important it is to reach out to the Generation Y cohort of 18- to 30-year-olds. Traditional, conservative and stuffy marketing approaches do not work with these digital natives—and neither does throwing social media technology or “cool” marketing on top of existing approaches. While Gen Y likes technology, a lot of interaction and great deals, they also want you to embrace fun and humor, and help them achieve their goals. They want you to change the way you do business in order to earn theirs.

One area where credit unions already have an advantage over banks is in developing deeper customer relationships, and social media can facilitate even richer connections. The good news is there are many ways to increase your relevance by using serious technology combined with a not-so-serious tone.

After all, marketing should be fun if you’re doing it right.

Humor me! Social Technology Meets Fun

In its research, Forrester found that Gen Y members value humor—even odd humor—and embrace it in business. They also view banks with a bit more apprehension, as they feel most financial institutions “don’t get them.” Consequently, it takes not only an investment in technology to reach this group; it also requires a commitment to changing the content of your communications. The key is to communicate that your credit union understands what Gen Y values. And humor is a way to build that generational bridge.

That Gen Y values humor is great news: it can help your marketing cut through lots of noise in a crowded market. Additionally, fun as a wrapper for great content adds value. There is no reason great information has to be delivered in a stodgy way. However, fun without a targeted, relevant approach is pandering.

It’s not enough to use mobile technology and web 2.0 platforms. A powerful and credible marketing approach to Gen Y must involve the integration of social technologies, the right messaging and personality, and an engaging, interactive user experience. Social media, like all great customer experiences, is about connecting with people. Otherwise, they would have called it anti-social media!

Work That Humor Muscle

So, how can you integrate humor with technology? First, it is important to understand what fun and humor are and how to make them pay off. Funny is great; yet, just having a fun attitude that makes customers smile is an important step in the right direction.

Here’s the most important point to remember: Humor is about the element of surprise. The question to ask isn’t, “How can we make people laugh?” Trying to be funny is a needlessly high and daunting bar to reach. Thus, the right question to consider is, “How can we surprise our audience?” When expectations are inverted, we are delighted. Here is the great news: because banking hasn’t exactly been known as a “fun factory,” there are many things your credit union can do to upend expectations and change the way you are perceived. Consider integrating fun, humor and technology into the following elements as part of your larger marketing strategy: video, contests, apps and games, and social networks.

Stay tuned the remainder of this series!

About Kathy Klotz-Guest: Kathy Klotz-Guest, CEO of Keeping it Human, helps organizations connect with audiences on a human level and get better marketing results. In her 20-year career, she has led successful marketing and communications strategies for high-tech, financial and services firms. A founding fellow for the Society for New Communications Research and comic improviser with the ComedySportz San Jose Rec League, she can be reached at kathy@keepingithuman.com, or via LinkedIn and Twitter.