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The MySpace Generation: Marketing to Generation Y

That’s the title of my speaking topic for tomorrow. I’m up right after lunch. I expect to have board members and senior management in my session. And I’ve been losing sleep over this? Why?

Not because I’m 47 – technically on the cusp between the Baby Boomer Generation and Generation X. Not because I’m not prepared, in fact I think I may have over-prepared. I guess it’s because I feel like I’m going to poop in every marketer’s punch bowl tomorrow, and well, you’re my peeps.

But it’s been bugging me for some time now, so I have to say it. We have to STOP doing what doesn’t work. We need Marketing 2.0! Modern marketing. New tools in our toolbox. In doing my research I created a marketing/media timeline:

1681 is the year of the very first direct mail piece in America. A pamphlet published by William Penn.

“No Junk Mail” is a movement in Australia today.

1704 came the first newspaper in America. So far this year 3 major newspapers have gone out of print/business.

1876 was the first telephone call ever made. In 2003 Bush signed the Do Not Call Implementation Act to protect consumers from telemarketers.

1924 the first radio broadcast in America. In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed allowing for Pandora type streaming commercial free customized radio.

1941 is the year of the first television broadcast in the US. Just 50 years later TiVo is invented changing the way we watch TV (commercial free).

1990 The world wide web is created. Marketers quickly tried to adapt this new medium to old school methods. Pop-up ads appeared and almost immediately software was created to block them.

How do you market to generation Y? You can’t. Period. So stop trying. Stop doing what doesn’t work. It’s no wonder the average age of a credit union member is 48 nationally. That’s one year older than me! Look at your web page, your last direct mail piece, listen to that radio ad you just produced, or clip out that newspaper ad and hang it on the wall above a teller’s desk- do you think anyone under 45 is really going to care?

It’s funny, but Generation Y acts very much the same way as our credit union founders. They are faced with exactly the same economic challenges, have traditional values and do not trust big banks but rather each other. They love to gather (think common bond) and give each other advice (think people helping people) they just don’t do it in the company lunch room. They do it on their phones and laptops on the subway, in the coffee shop, or just walking down the street.

We need to join this conversation. We need to stop TELLING them what they want and what they should do and start LISTENING to what they want and figure out what YOU should do.

Social network users are 3X more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising in purchase decisions.

1 word-of-mouth conversation = the impact of 200 TV ads!

We need to understand, word-of-mouth always has been, and always will be the best, cheapest and most effective marketing. Your direct mail pieces aren’t getting you word of mouth. They may get you some hot money.

Stop “going after” people and products and start targeting a problem. Kudos to Technology Credit Union for writing their own iPhone application! And to the 200 plus credit unions that are now Twittering (thank you Roger Conant for CUTweetTrack).

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t want to encourage R & D (rip off and duplicate) by just showing the things that credit unions are doing to attract this generation.

What are you doing in the Gen Y space that is worthy of a mention? What’s left of your common bond? Is there a cause in there you could get behind?

And because I’m going to be speaking to the League of IBM Credit Unions (now called the Alliance of Credit Unions) I leave you with their mantra. Think.

Pronounced bree-kuh-lahzh

– noun,“To make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose).”

As Sister Rose Delores would say, “Now use it in a sentence.”

One who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur.

Think MacGyver or Mr. Bean, or you as a five year old.

One of my fondest childhood memories was practicing bricolage with my two sisters. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so we had to be creative. Of course we loved to play Barbies. One week-end my mom let us take over the dining room table to build a Barbie world. It started with Barbie’s house. I was in charge of the bathroom. We made her a bathtub out of a pink Pyrex loaf pan (which is being offered on eBay for $24.99) and my mom carved us a tiny little soap bar, and made her a toilet paper roll with a toothpick and cut up paper towels. The towel rack was a bobbie pin with another chunk of paper towel hanging from it. Barbie loved it! Nobody recalled our Barbie dream house because of lead paint.

We also used to play “store.” Mom would always open her cans and boxes on the bottom so we could pretend they were still full and we would make price tags for them and with cinder blocks and boards made store shelves and would take turns being the shopper and the cashier.

She was a wonderful cook. My favorite meals were “Clean out the fridge night.” It was time to take leftovers and whatever else we could find and make a meal. Not everyone ended up with the same things on their plate – so you felt special.

This recession will bring back bricolage. We’re not going to be able to buy whatever we want and passively be entertained. Budgets are getting cut, times are tough. We have to get back to basics.

I’m sure our fallen brothers and sisters in the military relied on the practice of bricolage. Let’s remember them and honor them.

My wish for this Memorial week-end is for us all to practice bricolage. Make a fort with your kids, rustle up vittles, make music with waxpaper and combs and plastic containers and wooden spoons, make up a bedtime story, use clothespins to attach playing cards to your kids bicycle wheels to make a cool noise. Enjoy what you have.

Last week-end I pulled weeds. Not just any weeds. Let me put it this way. If there was a dandelion category at the state fair – these dandelions would take the blue ribbon. I mean to say, these babies had roots as big as carrots. I filled five Hefty bags with weeds.

They were in full bloom. Some with bright yellow blooms and some had gone to those wonderful pillowy mini parachutes that you blew on as a kid. And I’m out there thinking why do we hate these beautiful flowers so much? Clearly they will withstand a nuclear attack, can grow in concrete and as the old Timex commercials touted, “It takes a licking, but keeps on ticking..” Case in point. Mow a dandelion – two hours later, it’s back!

So why do we scorn them? Because someone along the way decided they were evil.

Definition of a weed: A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.

But what if your house is a rental house and we inherited the weeds? I don’t have a garden, don’t plan to start one. They were here first. Shouldn’t we be thankful for their bounty and color?

No. Because our neighbors will scorn them and us. We are, after all, the rental house on the block. Sure, they could possibly expect it from us – to look more ghetto – but peer pressure made me go out there and kill them. One by one. I don’t want anyone to think I’m not a good neighbor.

You unwanted, undesirable yellow flowers – society has decided you must die. You are bad – and those petunias, marigolds and dusty millers I bought at Home Depot (for almost 30 bucks) that will maybe last three months are good. So kill the free hearty stuff with medicinal qualities, and replace it with seasonal weaker stuff.

Isn’t it time, in a recession, to reassess what’s good and bad? I say we let the dandelions flourish. You can eat them! We change our attitude towards weeds. We redefine weed – to only mean desirable growing plants that flourish in bad weather and economies.

Have you eve been accused of something you didn’t do? And there’s no real way to prove that you DIDN’T do it?

I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry. I don’t cry often, I’m usually a pretty perky person but last night I sobbed. It’s over. My relationship with Saturn is so over.

As many of you know, I have been fiercely loyal to my Saturns. From my first, the SC1 named Toonces, and to Cordelia, and Ruby, and Buttercup to my 2008 VUE, Sunkist. I name my cars. I love my Saturns. I actually used to look forward to taking my car in for oil changes. I used to get chocolates and flowers and my car washed.

Not anymore. Saturn of Smithtown is what car dealers are known for. Uncaring, looking for a way to get out of warranty service. They are everything Saturn tried NOT to be.

When I took my VUE in for an oil change last month. Not only did I get the car back dirty (no complimentary car wash, no little treats) BUT I also found out two days later I got my car back with a loose oil filter – thank god for the oil and check engine lights that came on right when I was coming off the interstate in Massachusetts. And thanks to Jon Reske from UMass Five College Credit Union for being my knight in shining armor and driving to an automotive store to get me oil so I could limp into the Springfield Saturn for a quick and painless oil fix!

But yesterday I took my car back to Saturn of Smithtown. I have a nasty leak somewhere in the passenger side. Thought it was coming from the engine. Turns out it’s in the seal of the windshield.

Tim calls me last night at 5:00 (after having my car since 7:30am) “So, when did you get your windshield replaced?” he asks. “What? I haven’t had my windshield replaced?”

My car has 7,200 miles on it. I would know if the windshield had been replaced.

Bottom line: They will not cover it under warranty because it does not have a “GM stamp” on the glass. They have basically accused me of lying. Trying to screw them out of warranty work. Wow.

So Tim at Saturn of Smithtown and his service manager decided they would not cover the repair. I didn’t even ask what it would cost to fix it. I’m done.

I posted on the Rip-Off Report blog this morning only to find another “rip off report” from the same dealership.

I guess my tears came not only from being accused of lying, but I think I had some pent up emotion from the move. New York is not the Northwest. So far I haven’t really missed Seattle or Portland – but something about the way I was treated. I guess it all just came flooding out.

I still don’t have my car – the XM radio stopped working AGAIN. We decided to leave a smaller carbon footprint in NY so it’s our only car. Oh, and the worse part, we don’t have any coffee in the house.

Saturn is gone – the economy sucks – it’s raining.

Thank God it’s Friday.

UPDATE (June 1st, 2009): Rochelle Petis, Executive Member Service of GM just called. She read about my problem and was determined to get to the bottom of it. Well… a much nicer and more detailed way, she basically said there was nothing they could do for me.

Today GM filed bankruptcy. I feel like America filed moral bankruptcy today. When are we going to learn? When is this disease of corporate greed going to be cured?

I cried on the phone to Ms Petis. I told her my sorrow came from the fact that I had hope that by treating people well (my Saturn love of gifts and cheers and tchotchkes) and being honest (not dickering on the sticker but pricing cars fairly) would result in success. That companies would learn that they don’t have to screw people over to make money. That loyalty has its rewards.

GM should fail. Big banks should fail. Too big to fail is killing us. Sure, there’s going to be lots of pain and suffering, but if we don’t rip off this band-aid, we’ll never heal.

Last week I was in Mississippi for five days. Biloxi, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs. Few people remember that the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over Bay St. Louis and Waveland as a category 3 (sustained winds of 120 mph). The highest wind gust recorded was 135 mph in Poplarville. Most associate the devastation with New Orleans. Flooding and levee breaches created their catastrophe, the hurricane HIT Mississippi.

Just 3 1/2 years later, you can barely notice that there was extensive flooding, bridges washed out, counties cut in half, 900,000 people without power for days. These are resilient people.

So when I learned that Mississippi was one of only four states to adopt the iBelong campaign, I was enamored.

An historic economic crisis is the last thing Mississippi needs right now. But they embraced it. And focused their energy on building their community – again.

Southern hospitality = Tom McWilliams, Sr. Vice President for the Mississippi Credit Union System.

I flew 170,000 miles last year, stayed in 95 hotel rooms, rented 36 cars, and received zero fruit and cheese trays. Tom not only sent up this lovely shnack – he also arranged to have a coffee maker put in my room (because Casinos don’t provide those – they want you to go downstairs, walk through the rows and rows of clanging slot machines, passed the little mall filled with sparkly clothes, jewelry and purses, to the ONLY coffee shop where you’ll spend $8.00 for a latte’. And no, it was not a Starbucks).

Thank you Mississippi (which is not only fun to say and spell, it’s fun to type – try it!)

i-ro-ny (noun)

(pl. -nies)

1. A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result. 

2. Smoking cigarettes while gambling in a casino in Biloxi the day the cigarette tax goes up by 50 cents a pack during the worst recession in US history.

Atlantic City SmokingSee also dramatic or tragic irony.

Ponder it.

I’m a loyal Marriott-er. I love all their hotels, from the Fairfield Inn (usually found in smaller towns along the interstate) to the J.W. Marriott (which is usually found along side a fabulous golf course). I get my points, I get my love, I get a good night’s sleep and am never disappointed. They are extremely consistent.

I’m down in Mississippi this week doing some NPS consulting with a credit union and my client said “I know you’re a Marriott girl, but we just got a spanky new Holiday Inn Express you should try out!” Hmmmmmm….I’m not going to get my Marriott points AND, well, it’s the Holiday Inn. But what the hey – I’ll try it.

My GPS (I named her Eleanor – and gave her a British accent) told me to “Bear right off the motorway.” And in less than a mile… “You have reached your destination.” Across the street is the requisite Waffle House, and next door a Days Inn. I’m a little nervous. It doesn’t really look like much from the outside.

But as soon as those doors “whooshed” open, I knew I was going to like the Holiday Inn Express in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It’s elegant. Dark green and chocolate brown furniture, marble floor. Wow. For $89.00 a night!

The room is clean and lovely and the amenities are cute and they even have a giant shower head and that curved shower rod so the shower curtain won’t touch you!

Am I gonna switch my loyalty? Probably not. Why? Because one fancy location hasn’t changed my perception of the brand. It’s the Holiday Inn. It’s where you go when you have lots of kids and you’re taking them to Disneyland from Portland, Oregon and it’s close to the interstate, has a soda machine and a pool.

After my 5th year consulting I kind of turned the snob corner. I don’t want to see errant hairs in the bathroom. I don’t want to be afraid to sit on the bedspread. I want a big bar of soap, and an iron that doesn’t spew goo all over my silk blouse. I want a fitness center with more than a broken treadmill and a Stairmaster. I want the Marriott.

I think a lot credit unions are the Holiday Inn of the financial world. They’re family friendly, a great price, been around for generations, and kind of run down. Occasionally I’ll see a credit union build a fancy new branch (like this HI Express) that looks absolutely nothing like the rest of their branches and I wonder what their plan is? To upgrade the image? Or to just build a fancy new branch. You see, the Holiday Inn runs both – the old and the new. It’s hit or miss. They upgraded their logo in 2007 but haven’t changed it in all of their locations.

The Marriott brands are crazy consistent. Extremely disciplined in their execution.

How about your branches? If your credit union were a hotel chain, which would it be?

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May 2009