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Is Your Bank Trying to Talk to Millennials? The Struggle Is Real

• Author: , Sr. Social Content Manager

recommendation for authentic marketing for Millennials

It would be an understatement to say I spend a lot of time on social media. After all, “it’s my job” is the greatest excuse ever. I like to think all this exposure to the cool kids online (I rock!) keeps my Gen X slang at bay (as if!) and makes me hip to lots of trending jargon. However, according to my teenage sons, I fail miserably when I try to insert “on fleek” or “squad” into a conversation.  “Just don’t,” they say. So of course I reply, “What. Ever.”

Brands, including financial services brands, contend with this exact difficulty when trying to connect with Millennials – currently the largest generation, an audience with spending power estimated in the trillions. Trillions.

Perhaps more than any other generation prior, Millennials demand authenticity; they even expect it in the marketing that targets them. “They do not like being advertised to,” reports AdAge here. “Today’s marketers need to stop selling and start engaging on customers’ terms.”

Many brands, like Taco Bell, take a literal approach to “customers’ terms.” In addition to choosing the right marketing channels to reach Millennials, they try to speak to Millennials in their own language, borrowing the latest slang. But not all brands can be Taco Bell.

And not all brands should try to be like Taco Bell. (Banks, we’re talking to you.) It’s really difficult to imagine a financial institution successfully pulling off the lingo. Consider this video in which “grandmas hilariously try to explain Millennial terms.”

Here’s the risk: banks aren’t likely to be considered as endearing as the grandmas in the attempt. It’s exactly the reason a recent ABA Bank Marketing article asks, “Can Your Institution Pull Off ‘Adulting’?” If you try, it warns, you’re unlikely to do so without “looking foolish or like you are trying much too hard.” The struggle is real, as Millennials say.

Like ABA Bank Marketing, Media Logic also issues caution in this regard. We advocate for substance and relationship-building instead. We advocate for building rapport, not through parroting the vocabulary, but by engaging in a way that’s authentic to the brand and helpful/relevant to the Millennial consumer.

Essentially, that’s what’s at the core of one Millennial’s request published here by CB Insight: “[Banks] need to be present in our conversations, sharing their expertise more—and directly promoting their products less. … It’s not a task you check off your list every now and then—like placing an advertisement or posting on your own blog—it’s an ongoing, multi-layered dialog you commit to participating in. … Join our ongoing conversations with actionable advice and guidance so that we can learn to trust you over time.”

Although the author does also say, “speak our language,” we don’t think she means it literally. She’s not asking banks to be like Taco Bell and trot out the latest phrases. Instead, we think she’s asking banks to talk with Millennials, not at them… to join their conversations, not dictate them. Millennials are savvy. They can spot fakery coming a mile away. Instead of giving you their business, they’ll drop an eye roll on you.

If that’s even a thing anymore.

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The Millennial segment represents $200 billion in annual buying power, which makes them highly desirable customers. However, they’re known for being particularly challenging when it comes to marketing. The tip sheets and marketing insights we’ve created can guide you as you launch your next project or campaign.