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      Home » Economy, Gen Y

      Reaching Gen Y

      Submitted by on Thursday, July 9, 200922 Comments
      Reaching Gen Y

      In last week’s article, The Choice of the Next Generation, we focused on aligning your products and services to meet the unique needs of Gen Y.  Once you have this backbone in place and the wired generation comes knocking on your virtual door, the next challenge comes in the form of communicating with and retaining these individuals.

      Their multi-channel usage means that you still have an opportunity to get some face time with this generation.  And given Gen Y’s responses to our questions on how they view the economy, they are much more optimistic than their elders.  Twenty-one percent of Gen Yers predict the economy will be in better shape over the next six months, compared to the 9 percent of Baby Boomers sharing those same thoughts. 


      (Definition of Generational Segments)

      Consumer optimism is one of the first hints of economic recovery, so these results are a sign that Gen Y will be on the front lines when the pent up spending demand bursts.  When this occurs, they will be looking to their trusted financial institution to provide them with guidance in terms of responsible borrowing.  They’ve seen the mess that irresponsible borrowing and lending can cause, and will be looking for ways to avoid these same mistakes.  Ensure that you have trained staff and online tools available to give that guidance.  Rather than being told what they need, this generation responds to having someone listen to their needs first, and then having a product tailored to meet those needs.  Through this process, the consumer is able to make an informed decision, and ultimately end up with a unique and authentic product.

      Given their proclivity to technology, it should be apparent that you also need to meet this generation on their own turf. 

      Specifically, having a cogent Web 2.0 strategy is critical to your success in both attracting and retaining a Gen Y customer.  Social media, including blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, can provide a relatively low cost entry into this realm.  However, I would argue that just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Sure, you can assign an intern to set up a Facebook page for your institution, or tweet your latest product offerings.  I’m sure your customers, especially those in Gen Y, are just lining up to become “fans” and “followers” of their bank (that’s my Gen X sarcasm coming out). 

      To get any real traction or results in this arena, you need to be willing to commit some resources to it.  If you want to attract new business, you need to spend time identifying potential leads, rather than waiting for them to come to you.  We’ve heard from institutions that have had success in generating new account openings by regularly monitoring some key word traffic on some of the popular social networking sites.  A post such as “does anyone know of a bank in the area offering a good rate on a mortgage” is an obvious opening for a reply from your institution to at least let the individual  know that, “hey, we’re here and would love to talk with you.”  This grassroots approach will take additional effort, so it’s important to monitor whether or not the work is justified by the results.

      What best describes your Gen Y strategy?

      • 3. We're designing products and channels to appeal to Gen Y (51%, 64 Votes)
      • 1. Still working on our Gen X strategy (12%, 15 Votes)
      • 4. We’re happy with our current customers, besides more customers = more problems (6%, 8 Votes)
      • 2. We know we need one, just not sure what it is yet (31%, 39 Votes)

      Total Voters: 126

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      Gen Y is also turning to social media to help shape their consumer decisions. 

      Rather than take the word of advertisers, they look to the members of their online communities to inform them of what products are worthwhile, and which brands are not living up to their promises.  Twenty years ago, if a customer had a bad experience with a bank, they might tell their family and friends.  So in the worst case, maybe a dozen or so people would have a negative view of your institution.  Today, that same individual might post their experience on a blog or social networking site, where it is seen by an exponential number of people.  If you screw up bad enough, it becomes viral and your one mistake is seemingly broadcast across the world. 

      A relatively harmless recent example of this was the cancellation of Rainn Wilson’s Alaska Air flight (if you’re a disenfranchised paper salesperson, you know Rainn as Dwight Schrute from The Office).  Cancelled flights happen every day, but when a person that has almost one million Twitter followers gets ticked off and tweets about it, the problem is no longer contained to just the 150 individuals on the flight.  Suddenly, one million people are evaluating the level of your customer service.  Are you sure you want to hand that responsibility over to an intern?  Below is the exchange between the disgruntled customer (Rainn) and the Alaska Air customer service representative.

      Rainn:  Hey @AlaskaAir you cant just cancel flights & then say, “Sorry!” & not help people get to their destination. Not cool. Fix yr planes, jerks. 

      12:41 PM Jun 25th from web

      AlaskaAir:  @rainnwilson What’s the flight#?

      12:42 PM Jun 25th from CoTweet in reply to rainnwilson

      Rainn:  @AlaskaAir #2330 operated by @horizonair – plane broken and everyone told “sorry, come back tomorrow!” 

      12:49 PM Jun 25th from web

      AlaskaAir:  @rainnwilson Working to gather some additional info re: the cancellation…really sorry for the inconvenience. Can you follow us?

      1:12 PM Jun 25th from CoTweet in reply to rainnwilson

      AlaskaAir:  @rainnwilson We’ve accommodated some people through LGB. We also looked at rebooking on other airlines, but everyone is full.

      1:32 PM Jun 25th from CoTweet

      AlaskaAir:  @rainnwilson We’re doing everything we can to accommodate those that have been inconvenienced. Sometimes these things happen & it sucks.

      1:34 PM Jun 25th from web in reply to rainnwilson

      Alaska Air responded very promptly and did what it could to diffuse the situation.  Others may have a different opinion, but I think that making the exchange less formal with the “sometimes these things happen & it sucks” was actually a nice touch as well.  This makes it obvious that the exchange is with a real person instead of just an automated reply.  It’s often more difficult to take your frustrations out on a real person than it is with a large faceless corporation.  It probably wouldn’t be an appropriate reply for everyone, but perhaps they took a quick look at Rainn’s profile and recent posts and got a better feel for what might work best in this situation.

      Does your bank dare to air its dirty laundry and tackle customer complaints in the wide open like this? 

      If it’s not done well, it can certainly have disastrous results.  But the alternative is a one-sided conversation, where customers are sounding off without any chance for the institution to make amends.  Bank of America has done a great job in handling customer complaints via their Twitter page (, and is truly on the cutting edge here.  Not only do they respond promptly to direct inquiries, they actually go out and look for problems!  In the example below, the customer simply posted this message to their Twitter page (rather than sending the complaint to B of A). 

      Oh no! Bank of America screwed up my account and now I have almost $200 in overdraft fees to deal with.  Of course, I can’t call now.

      7:36 PM Jun 27th from Tweetie

      First thing Monday morning, a B of A rep proactively contacted the customer to try and resolve.

      I work for Bank of America, were you able to call and get it resolved?  Anything I can do to help?

      9:18 AM Jun 29th from Web in reply to

      This is akin to you muttering a complaint under your breath and suddenly having someone across the country jump in to resolve it.  The only difference is that the stage and audience is much bigger.

      The end result of all of this is that you are meeting Gen Y in the space that they prefer to communicate, and in doing so, giving them the immediate response that they have come to expect.  The rush is on to have meaningful interactions with this generation, and many of the large banks in particular have already recognized this.  The stakes are high, but the greater risk is in not doing anything at all.

      One last comment … we’ve heard that Gen Y doesn’t like the label.  They claim it’s unoriginal, unimaginative and unjustly tied to Gen X.  So we turn to you, readers of the Raddon Report, to suggest a better name for this generation.  Give us your suggestion as a comment below.  We’ll select our favorite and send a gift card or a box of golf balls.

      Need new ideas, recommendations or solutions for attracting Gen Y?

      Contact RFG to learn more about our proprietary research on Gen Y and all the generational segments.  Call 800.827.3500 or email.

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      • Sarah said:


        Another great Gen Y post! You really hit the nail on the head with companies using Twitter as a customer service tool. Personally I ranted about the bank that formerly held my husband’s car loan. Within a day they’d contacted me to resolve the problem. Granted, I don’t have 1 million followers (like @Rainnwilson, who is hilarious, btw), but having a “real” person there to address the issue was great. I truly believe that Twitter may someday be an excellent supplement emails and live chats with financial institutions. It’s far more convenient be able to contact them where I’m already hanging out, right?

        I’d also strongly discourage the tweets about “your latest product offerings.” As an avid Gen Y Twitterer, I quickly unfollow a company that does nothing but advertise. To me its just white noise. I love seeing companies tweet about their community involvement, provide links to interesting sites or just be a real person.

        As far as a name, I’d call us the Realist Generation. We know it takes hard work to make change, but we’re optimistic that by joining our voices (whether it is via live rallies or in the Twitterverse) we will leave this world better than we found it.

      • Nancy Olmsted said:

        New name for Gen Y…..TechGen.

      • Kevin Keller said:

        Designer Generation (they want to build, design, customize their experiences, products and services)

      • S Getson said:

        I agree with Nancy, TechGen is much better than Y Gen.

      • Todd Rothenberger said:

        The Why? Generation

      • sara stern said:


        I think you hit the nail on the head with your article. As a parent of four children (three of which would be considered in the Gen Y category) it is apparent that they do speak a foriegn language to those of us who were once considered Yuppies, then DINKs (dual income, no kids), then Soccer Moms or Helicopter Parents (I happen to have been both)and now just plain “old folks”.

        My suggestion is for this group is Ichange. They are Internet savvy and want to change the world. We have to have high hopes for them since they will be paying our Social Security and picking out our old folks home! Teach them well and let them lead the way….isn’t that what the song says? Oh, that’s right, they’ve probably never heard of “The Greatest Love of All” written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed and performed by Whitney Houston…but then again maybe they HAVE heard it since they can just download anything to their iPod.

      • Mark Bentz said:

        Members of Gen y use technology heavily, but generally do not understand (or appreciate) technology. Gen y members do not have the patients to stick with a process long enough to gain an indepth understanding of anything techonlogy based. Ever see a Gen y switch between radio stations and songs on their ipod without listening to a complete song, seeking immediate thrill then follow through with with quick boredom. Know how that ipod works? Gen y answer = “no interest” (Dude – Steve Jobs is a Baby boomer and built the ipod and all the other i’s). Gen y moves from one fad like technology obsession to another much like they switch between songs on ther ipods. Gen y would be the first to click “yes” on a security warning prompt to allow something to happen on their piece of technology without even reading the message on the prompt (Gen y = “who cares, doesn’t matter”). Gen Y relates to life like a video game, wanting to play, but no interest in how the video game really works. Harsh? Maybe… but true. Hay Gen y – take that iPod apart and spend some quality time learning how it works – it is really neat! Signed – Tail Boomer (the group at the end of the baby boom). New name? Maybe one day Gen Y will earn a name.

      • Mary Turner said:

        Wow Mark. That’s a little harsh. It reminds me of the following:

        “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
        frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and
        respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise
        [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint”

        (Hesiod, 8th century BC).

        When I was 10 in 1968, the adults were despairing of young people’s behavior…hippies, protest marches, communes, etc. It seems each generation forgets what it was like to be young. Adults throughout history have been alarmed by the behavior of young people, and civilization hasn’t yet come to an end.

        I agree that GEN Y is derivative of GEN X and not very original. I read awhile back that they prefer Millennial Generation. That is what I use internally.

      • T Cayce said:

        “Gen Y” = “Game Changers”

        The “Game Changer” group is a force to be reckoned with for certain! They collectively exert enough momentum to create tipping points, they command enough market presence to be the topic of countless “How do we reach them” presentations, they easily and quickly adapt to the newest technology forcing businesses and the likes to keep up or be shunned, and their sheer demographic footprint alters the course of many a business/events/marketing campaigns/etc.

        Long gone are the days where this group can be overlooked or dismissed. They’ve simply changed the game and the rules by which it is played.

      • Jane Pelz said:

        I have a lot of respect for Gen Ys. My son and his five friends belong to Gen Y. One of them is an electrical engineer who helps my son build his own computers because the commercially built computers aren’t fast enough for gaming. So, I think Gen Ys are perfectly capable of learning how an iPod works.

        My son is double majoring in German and Political Science as well as building computers. Another of my Gen Ys is learning to be an animation artist, another manages a restaurant, sings in a band and writes popular music. They are all fonts of wisdom. If they wonder about something, they Wiki it and have an instantaneous answer. They also read books.

        But most importantly for our dicussion, none of them ever walks into a branch. They all bank online. Some of them use the Bank of America iPod App. They make deposits at ATMs or directly online. And they expect their technology services to be up-to-date. They think they can do pretty much anything and go anywhere. One has been to China twice and Japan once. His Gen Y brother teaches English overseas. Mine has been to Europe twice. They think of the world as their back yard.

        They all use Facebook. And word gets around immediately if they have a bad experience, no matter what country they are in.

        Gen Y? The smartest, ablest Gen yet. A new name? How about Gen Y not?

      • Mark Bentz said:

        Good discussion! I think the important thing to reaize is that we are individuals and not groups. I think everytime you generalize about an individual and define them into a herd, it is a disservice to the individual and you usualy end up being wrong. What is wrong with marketing to individuals? Was that person in the 8th century even in a Gen? Maybe we should just scrap all of this Gen “alphanumeric character” stuff and treat people with individual respect.

        I run a very sccessful business and work with every generation. I attribute my success to the old phrase “respect for the individual.” You find out what that person wants by listening to them, not by grouping them.

      • Joe said:

        I think Mark has lost touch with what he did as a youth. As part of the Gen Y, and very intelligent, I think that he has completely misspoken. If you never realized, we are (and have been for some time) getting away from the manufacturing industry and gravitating towards the services industry. This would explain why we cannot manufacture an iPod or care why it works the way it does. Not everybody needs to know how something works in order to use the product. Could you tear apart your car or television and let me know what every single part does and why it is there over another? Let me know. Steve Jobs built the iPod? For some reason, I think that is downright wrong. Steve Jobs probably had a group of 30-somethings manufacture the entire thing and make sure it worked on all fronts. If I’m not mistaken, Jobs could have put together the iPod back in the day, but as for most company CEO’s (and majority of those are Baby Boomers) they don’t need to build things. They have a team that they can tell to do something and it will get done (then they can take credit for ‘making’ it). Most likely those who built it are people of my generation (Y).

        Mark, were you interested in everything that your parents were? Did you join the Army because that’s what dad did? Why do you expect someone who is half your age to do the same as you did? I think you’re fretting over the small things in life. Here’s some things that I do instead of learn how to take apart an iPod and learn what it does: I taught myself how to play guitar, I taught myself how to design graphics, I read 2 books a week, I graduated with my college degree in 4 years (with a 3.7GPA from a prestigious university) and will have my MBA a year from now (I’m 22), I work in a large Midwestern bank in their Marketing department and can do all that other employees can do. Let me know where to stop? I think you’re just comparing today’s youth with you and thinking they are inferior. Much as your father probably did to you. However, you weren’t inferior, you were just different.

        I want to know what the name of your company is and where you’re located, so I can blast it on the web and make sure nobody patronizes your company. That’s how MY generation operates.

      • Marcus Rothaar (author) said:

        Just a quick follow-up to the Alaska Air customer service example that was noted in this post. The airline recently topped a J.D. Power and Associates survey measuring customer satisfaction among the top 8 “traditional” airlines.

        If your institution is thinking of handling customer service issues in this same fashion, or making other changes that will appeal to Gen Y, be sure to measure how these changes impact your customer base. It can be very meaningful to conduct customer surveys prior to and after such a change, and then segment the results by generation to see if it has had the intended impact.

        And now for my hard sell of the day – consider using RFG for your survey (wow, I felt like I was channeling Billy Mays there).

      • Mark Bentz said:

        Joe – I appreciate your comments. It sounds like you are doing well for yourself and have plenty to brag about and be thankful for. You are a perfect example of what I discussed. Sure you are smart, I do not dispute that (nice GPA), but why are you not curious about how something is build or engineered? It is true that not everyone needs to know how to manufacture an iPod, but it is bizarre that there is a genuine lack of imaginative curiosity on your part. You sound like you are ready to mock and look down on someone that “manufactures” or builds something. You read books, but have you ever thought about writing one? You use technology… have you ever had the imagination and desire to dream up technology of you own? That is the puzzle of you generation. I hope one day you experience the thrill of inventions and dreams, then one day you may appreciate what Steve Jobs did (and felt).

        PS: Not to be out done, my graduate GPA was 3.9… and I have taken apart my TV, computer, and a friends iPod…

      • Joe said:


        There is no use in actually responding to your comment, because you’re hell-bent on thinking one way. That one way is that ‘little whippersnappers’ (I’m sure you said that somewhere in your mumblings at your computer, or perhaps, ‘grasshopper’) are not doing things the way that you did them as a kid, so they must be wrong. They must not be doing things the right way and they are the reason that our society is in freefall.

        You’re busy comparing people who are anywhere from 9-30 to someone who is 45-63. The difference between technology when you grew up and when I grew up is astronomical. Not to mention the pay differences between then and now. Yes, I’m sure you worked for $3 an hour or whatever, but look at the difference in what that got you compared to now. If you take $3 an hour in 1960 and compare that to today, you’d have to earn $21.81/hr to be able to buy the same amount of goods (Consumer Price Index). Ask some teenagers or 20-somethings what they get paid hourly now… it’s nowhere near $20/hr.

        Then you have to consider what goes into each product. Why do you expect a teen or 20-something to tear apart a new $300 iPod just to figure out what it does? What happens when/if it breaks? Limited warranty means you’re out $300. With banks failing (thanks baby boomers) and people stealing our money (thanks silent generation) we can’t afford to lose $300 in taking apart a new gadget. So, in speaking to your days – if an iPod costs $300 today, it would have cost you $41.27 in 1960.

        You don’t need to tell me that one day I will think of dreams and inventions, I’ve already thought them out. I started drawing an animated book (did I mention I was also a prize-winning artist?) – but then had to go back to my 40-hour a week job and my 21-hour a week class load. Things aren’t the same and they’re barely comparable.

        And you’re spending time comparing us to Steve Jobs. He was 21 when he founded Apple. With who’s money did he use? Mike Markkula…. A multi-millioniare. It’s not like Apple was an instant success in 1976 either… It took a few years. If Jobs were in Gen Y… he would be 1.5 years away from founding Apple… and several years from making it huge. Give us time. You don’t know what we’re capable of. You’re still comparing lifetime achievements to teenagers achievements.

        Again, I’ll ask this – what company do you own, and where? Also – where did you graduate from college – both times (since you mentioned graduate gpa). I do believe there is a difficulty difference between universities… and now am curious.

      • Mark Bentz said:

        Joe – It is nice to see someone so hard working. You should complete and publish you animated book, as that sounds like your real dream. I Looking forward to purchasing your work one day.

        To answer your question – I have built a real estate investment business in my spare time (about 100 units) and also worked full time and going to night school like you. I enjoy working with people of all ages. I rent safe, clean, well kept apartments to a mixed population. The group I have the most respect and admiration for is single Moms. I am truly amazed at their ability to raise kids in a tough world (compare your problems with theirs and you will fall short). I try to give them the best deal I can afford to give (and still pay taxes). I also have a lot of older people that are on limited income, young students, young couples having their first child, and every other flavor of person available to list.

        I am convinced that every generation, and every individual has their issues, and nobody is perfect. I am also convinced as I stated before that “respect for the individual” is the best approach, to running a business and that lumping people into groups based on generational differences is wrong (see my 2nd comment). The devil is in the details.

        Now that we know eachother a little as individuals is there a possibility for mutual respect and less bitterness?

      • Dan said:

        I think Mark should take a look at the article below…

        Two excerpts…

        “People are realizing they don’t have to go to work in suits and ties and don’t have to talk about budgets every day,”
        says Ben Kaufman, 20, founder of a company that makes iPod accessories.

        Kaufman, of Melville, N.Y., named his company Mophie for his golden
        retrievers, Molly and Sophie. It earned a best-of-show award at the 2006 Macworld Expo in San Francisco.

        He started out with financial help from his parents, but he now has more than $1.5 million in venture capital. His line of cases, armbands and belt clips is produced in China, which he visits
        several times a year, between classes at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., where he’s a sophomore majoring in business.”


        “Take 18-year-old Ben Casnocha. His nickname is “Big Ben” — he’s 6-foot-4. And he’s rich. Casnocha schmoozes with executives
        and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley in the morning and goes to high school in the afternoon. Casnocha’s company, Comcate,
        markets software he designed for local governments. It started as a project for Ben’s sixth-grade tech class at a private school in San Francisco. Comcate now has annual revenue of around $750,000 and 50 customers in small and midsize cities in several states.”

        Also, there are plenty of kids that buy electronic equipment so they can take it apart and see how it works. Search youtube and you’ll find a ton of kids that show you how to modify your xbox, playstation, wii, and ipod.

        Gen Y office worker/gamer/and sound engineer.

        - At least one of those three has to require that I “understand how things work”. ;)

      • Chadwick said:

        Gen Y could just simply be called the iGen.

      • eve said:

        Mark Bentz and Joe… you guys are a comedy duo! Don’t you realize that you guys are just looking in the mirror. You two are excatly the same no matter what generation you are a part of.

      • The emerging auto loan market | The Raddon Report said:

        [...] Rothaar has done an admirable job in recent posts discussing the topic of emerging segments (see Reaching Gen Y, and The Choice of the Next Generation), specifically the Gen Y segment.  I would like to address [...]

      • Marcus Rothaar (author) said:

        Thank you to everyone for their suggestions on a more appropriate name for Gen Y. It’s taken us almost as long as it took the Minnesota Senate Election to declare a winner, but after several recounts, the Raddon Report is ready to announce our favorite. We really liked the reasoning given behind many of the names, especially ‘Gen Y not’, Realist Gen, Designer Generation, and Game Changers. The technology slanted names such as TechGen, Ichange, and iGen also received their fair share of votes.

        But in terms of capturing all of complexities that this generation presents, the Raddon Report feels that Generation Why, or “The Why? Generation” as suggested by Todd best depicts the challenges that this generation demonstrates. While it’s probably not a moniker that will stick long-term, it’s most appropriate now because of the way that ‘Gen Why’ is forcing marketers and financial institutions to reevaluate the way that they do business, and how they reach and communicate with this elusive group. At this point, this generation raises more questions than we probably have answers for. They are not satisfied with ‘business as usual’, and will continue to have you searching for answers to the question of “Why should they select you as a financial institution?”

        There’s certainly more work to be done to figure out this generation; and eventually give them a more meaningful name. One of the goals of our research is to help you find the answers to this question, and we’ll certainly be sharing additional thoughts on this as we continue to learn more.

      • The Impact of New Media: Mobile, Green, Debit Card and Online Banking | The Raddon Report said:

        [...] research analyst is treading on the turf of the esteemed Mr. Rothaar(See Raddon Report article: Reaching Gen Y), the growth and popularity of social networking Web sites and blogs have left many financial [...]

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