Can Your Institution Pull Off “Adulting?”

By Kristin Sundin Brandt, CFMP

While speaking on the topic of Content Marketing at the Indiana Bankers Association’s Mega Conference, an attendee relayed a story where she had shared an article that used the term “adulting” in the headline (as in “17 tips for better adulting.“) Her goal was to connect with millennials like herself—unfortunately, according to the attendee, her managers didn’t understand the article or the headline and asked for its removal.

(According to Urban Dictionary the term adulting means “to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grownups.“)

How, she wanted to know, was she supposed to reach out to, and speak with, millennials if she couldn’t speak as one of them?

It’s a good question and one that I’ve found myself returning to since leaving Indiana. The issue is whether your institution should try to use current words such as adulting, bae, or on fleek, and whether you do so without looking foolish or like you are trying much too hard.

Let’s start by assuming that your institution has a strategy for attracting millennials that goes beyond a few Facebook or Twitter updates. Attracting millennials comes down to more than understanding how they speak, but also to what products and services they want/need, how they want to engage with their financial institutions, and how that matches with your organization’s strategic goals. To be blunt, if you don’t have what they want, it doesn’t matter how you speak to millennials, because they are not coming to your institution.

That being said, it’s important to remember that, ultimately, whatever you say should feel authentic to your institution. If you are a conservative, “buttoned up” bank that normally sticks to the AP Stylebook, you will not have much luck busting out a word such as “adulting.”

If you do try, consider using the terms ironically, or in a self-deprecating “we can laugh at ourselves” manner. This is a similar strategy utilized by many parents who, like myself, have started to incorporate words such as “adulting” into our vocabulary with the understanding that we sound ridiculous.

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If you are an organization that generally shows a little more personality, or regularly uses humor, you will do much better with this new vocabulary. But even then, you should utilize terms carefully and only after you have a full understanding of the meanings. Otherwise, your content strategy may yield disastrous (or just slightly embarrassing) results, as when ASB Bank in New Zealand invited a customer on Twitter to “Netflix and Chill” (which is generally understood to mean have sex while watching Netflix).

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Returning to the original question: Can your institution pull off “adulting” or other popular slang terms? Yes. But carefully, and only as part of a larger strategy, and with some education for senior managers who might still think we were all just trying to be grownups.

Kristin Sundin Brandt, CFMP, is the president of Sundin Associates Inc., Natick, Mass., an agency specializing in financial services companies.  

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