That was the message from keynote speaker Jason Dias, president of Eloquent Online, a marketing firm, who spoke at the African American Credit Union Coalition's conference.
With a lively presentation peppered with music from all genres, Dias implored attendees to consider taking their credit union message online with live streams, revamping their branches so that they appeal to a younger audience and setting up profiles on MySpace and Facebook. In addition to establishing financial literacy connections with local schools, Dias suggested credit unions holding concerts there to create brand awareness. In three years, one out of four Gen Yers will be old enough to drive, he pointed out.
"If you don't replace aging borrowers with young depositors, you will not be around," Dias warned. "History is change. If you don't believe me ask, Kmart, or Montgomery Ward. Are you still a CD credit union in an MP3 world?"
Dias said the so-called Hannah Montana generation will make or break a credit union if they choose being proactive or complacent. He suggested going where Gen Yers are, and "taking your brand to places where you would not take your board" such as on Facebook.
In 2007, 33% of single women and mothers were homeowners, Dias said.
"The narrative is the same--if you want to attract moms, treat their kids well," he advised.
The emergence of NASCAR as a popular pastime may be another route for credit unions to explore. In certain parts of the country, the racing activity has surpassed baseball in terms of ticket revenue, Dias said. As an example of just how a group's interests can impact a brand, he pointed to the millions of baby boomers who "saved Harley Davidson."
The release of the iPhone coupled with Bill Gates retirement in July could lead to Macintosh computers replacing personal computers. In 2007, "Guitar Hero," "American Idol" and "High School Musical 2" were the top revenue generators. What does all of this mean for credit unions, Dias asked attendees. Gen Yers want it fast and they probably don't care about ever entering a brick and mortar branch.
"Evolve with the marketplace. People want instant gratification," said the 40-year-old Gen Xer. "I'm of the generation that has learned to eliminate the middle man."
Dias predicts the Hannah Montanites will bring back the housing boom. Other financial institutions are starting to recognize their power and are gearing up products and services that speak their language. Fidelity Investments has launched a suite of products for them such as money market funds tied to checking accounts. The company is also going beyond the Internet to deliver custom account information and audio clips for download on iPods and other MP3 players.
"Fidelity is on you like white on rice," Dias said. "There is no more mass marketing. It's anything for anyone."
With all the power they potentially wield, credit unions and other financial institutions will still have to manage the risks tagged to Gen Yers, Dias said. To that end, the day may soon come that falls in step with the Treasury Department's long-term initiative of eliminating the credit union charter and lumping all financial institutions under one regulator. Dias seems to believe this possibility.
"I don't think the marketplace is moving toward just banks, just community banks or just credit unions," he said. "I think it will be all of one of these."
With that evolution, credit unions are primed to break out of the box. People helping people, long an industry cornerstone, may need oxygen for continued survival, Dias said.
"A lot of credit unions are still running like their part of the older George H.W. Bush generation. We can respect the older legacy, but we can't go on serving like this," Dias said.
And, on the subject of a one-financial charter prospect, Dias said he caught some heat during the time when credit union to mutual bank conversions was the hot topic in Texas.
"I said Texans really don't care. Be edgy. Outdo the banks."