Inside Marketing: How Credit Unions Can Win Young Hearts and Wallets

young Gen Z woman in pink sweatshirt making a heart shape with her hands
By Samantha Wheeler

4 minutes

3 growth strategies that resonate with savvy millennials, Gen Z and beyond

Credit unions are excellent financial partners for members. In addition to being not-for-profit financial cooperatives, many credit unions offer competitive services and higher interest rates on savings accounts. Moreover, they pride themselves on knowing the members within their community and offering personalized services that meet their unique needs. But they have to get creative in making their differentiators known.

Many CUs still rely on word-of-mouth and traditional marketing strategies like mailers and billboards, which can be costly and often receive a low response rate. Meanwhile, big banks and fintechs are investing millions of dollars into digital marketing strategies to attract consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z.

To thrive in today’s environment, credit unions must reimagine their marketing and growth strategies to resonate with digitally savvy younger generations and entrepreneurs, while positioning themselves as relevant and appealing options for financial services. Below are a few strategies to consider.

Embedded Finance

In a world where virtually everything is accessible online, seamless access to financial services should also be the norm. This doesn’t mean just optimizing websites and mobile apps for user experience but meeting consumers where they spend their time. Imagine the possibility of accessing local credit union offers seamlessly through popular apps like Zillow when looking for a home. A timely offer could help a family afford to move to their dream home with the convenient click of a mouse. An experience like this could completely change consumers’ perspective on credit unions, raising awareness of the competitive rates and products available to them. Giving them this visibility into their financial options can improve members’ financial health in the short and long term.

To achieve this, credit unions can leverage embedded finance strategies by partnering with fintechs like Union Credit to integrate their offers into popular e-commerce platforms, getting in front of consumers where they spend most of their time. Embedding offers within consumers’ daily (or milestone) retail and financial activities could completely change the game for credit unions and consumers alike.

Brand Partnerships

Another way to raise awareness is through creative partnerships with big brands. Credit unions are already known for sponsoring local charities and nonprofits and forming strategic alliances with local businesses and organizations, but partnering with big names can amplify their presence and address gaps in awareness. Strategic alliances with prominent brands can also help underserved communities, fostering economic empowerment and mobility.

One example of this is $570 million HOPE Credit Union, Jackson, Mississippi, forming strategic partnerships with Nike and Netflix. In partnership with Nike, they are offering Nike athletes, employees and their families access to a wide range of affordable financial products and services that can help them build a brighter financial future. Netflix is helping them build economic opportunity in Black communities through a $10 million Transformational Deposit to fund business, mortgage and consumer loans. Such name recognition helps drives business with credit unions that may otherwise be lesser known to consumers.

Niche Strategy

Lastly, when it comes to identifying the right marketing approach, credit unions must carefully assess whether a niche or broad strategy is suitable for their institution. Some credit unions may aspire to cater to a wide array of needs across their target markets, attempting to be everything to everyone and differentiating themselves by excelling in areas such as service quality, pricing, speed and convenience; but for many, especially smaller credit unions, that is not realistic. This is where focusing on serving niche markets is a viable strategy to remain competitive.

$278 million Platinum Federal Credit Union, Duluth, Georgia, and $1 billion Latino Community Credit Union, Durham, North Carolina, are great examples of this. Platinum FCU serves the financial needs of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community, and its members include many small businesses that support the local community. The credit union invests in the technology necessary to provide its members with the financial services they need to meet their goals as business owners, such as ACH, wire transfers and entitlements, while improving cash management and workflows with automation.

Latino Community CU was established in 2000 to provide access to economic opportunity to Latino and other immigrants traditionally locked out of mainstream financial services. The credit union provides a wide range of financial products and services that are fully bilingual (Spanish and English), personalized and culturally tailored, including micro business loans and commercial accounts.

Credit unions must make a deliberate decision about their strategic direction and engage in discussions with their boards to ensure alignment on the most effective growth and marketing approach for their organization. By offering consumers visibility into their financial options, a great digital experience and personalized products that fit their current financial needs, credit unions can guide members young and old throughout their financial journey, empowering them to make informed financial decisions at every stage of their lives.

Samantha Wheeler is an account representative at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.

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