The (Silent) Generation Gap

By Keith Brannan

Marketing to multiple generations requires new tools.

Financial institutions have compelling reasons to target millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers. But different generations respond to marketing in various ways. Each group presents unique marketing challenges and requires an individual strategy for optimal outreach. With so many variables to consider, should banks choose only one or two generations to focus on? Is it even possible for a bank to reach consumers of all ages?

Knowing how each demographic responds to marketing tactics can help you form true connections with all three groups. In fact, building meaningful relationships with millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers just requires a few tweaks to your current marketing strategy.

What motivates millennials?

Millennials move fast. Short attention spans are now the norm, with the average person now possessing a focus of only eight seconds—shorter than a goldfish, according to a study completed by Microsoft. Because of the smartphone, millennials are now constantly multitasking, switching from app to app and from one browser tab to the next. Although this makes them difficult to target, banks shouldn’t ignore them. That’s because millennials who are considering switching financial institutions are as likely to consider a local bank as a megabank. In fact, according to a Harris Poll survey, 61% of millennials who would consider moving their money to a new financial institution would consider a local community bank or a credit union.

To reach millennials, it’s important to target them on the channels they actually use, with messaging that speaks to them. Banks should genook to engage with the customer across multiple digital channels and devices—from email inboxes to social networks. Millennials also welcome thought leadership and expertise, so banks should look to incorporate content marketing. While this strategy may seem simple, it has many moving parts and becomes even more difficult when attempting to reach two other age groups with personalized messages as well.

How to reach the unreachable: tapping the skeptical Generation X.

According to AdWeek, a piece in the Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business suggests that Generation X is pessimistic and skeptical. This group is more suspicious of marketing—and email marketing in particular. Authenticity and tonality are two values that they rate highly, and this can make marketing to them challenging. Despite the difficulties of reaching this group in a way they approve of, they are still a worthwhile generation to target.

A survey completed by Harris Poll cited Generation X as being generally more familiar with local and regional financial institutions than millennials. Not only that, they are excellent targets for multiple products beyond standard checking and savings accounts, as many of them may be refinancing a mortgage or thinking about purchasing a new car.

To market to this cynical generation, financial institutions should focus on being personal in their messaging. This age bracket is more likely to take action over an email message that is customized to their wants and needs than a generic mass email. Today’s consumers are accustomed to getting content geared directly to them on social media because of modern algorithms, and Generation X expects financial institutions to follow suit.  

The benefits of boomer targeting.

Boomers are hardly the hot group to market to these days, due in part to the group’s slight aversion to mobile. According to a study by J.D. Power, over 60% of baby boomers are skeptical about the data security of mobile apps. And since many financial institutions invest heavily in their mobile experience, they want consumers who will utilize this feature. Despite boomers’ distaste for mobile, they are an important group to target for a few reasons.

Boomers have a high natural inclination toward switching financial institutions, as well as a fondness for community financial institutions. In fact, they are more open to switching to local institutions than other generations. This is in part because they are less likely than younger generations to see switching banks as a hassle. Plus, this age group is made up of approximately 76 million consumers, and their purchasing power packs a big punch.

Baby boomers are a relatively easy group to connect with compared to other generations. They respond well to social media, email, and other traditional forms of marketing. The challenge is figuring out how to target multiple generations at once because boomers like mobile less than younger consumers. These differing preferences make marketing difficult, and many financial institutions are finding that they cannot handle the task alone.

Winning the hearts of multiple generations.

While each of these groups presents different challenges, they also bring with them unique opportunities, and it is no surprise that your institution should want to target all three. How can a single institution reach all three groups effectively?

Community financial institutions may not have the resources to implement an intense marketing program spanning all generations on their own, but there are ways to approach this problem.

A good marketing automation system provides banks with the ability to reach all types of consumers with customized messages that would be too expensive and time-consuming using manual methods.

Here’s how.

Marketing automation uses your customers’ data to market to them in a way that is personal, effective, and easy to implement. Automated systems can immediately act on changes in your data or transaction results, allowing customized and real time marketing. The data used in marketing automation drives timely, relevant communication based on the consumer life cycle that boosts lifetime value and results in a more engaged customer. Automation is the easiest and most productive way to build better customer relationships with baby boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y—all of whom expect outreach personalized to their specific wants and needs.

Keith Brannan is chief marketing officer of Kasasa, a financial technology and marketing technology company committed to driving results for community financial institutions by attracting, engaging, and retaining consumers. For more information on Kasasa, visit, or visit them on Twitter @Kasasa, @KasasaNews, Facebook, or LinkedIn.