Deodorant, Dadaism, and Betty White: Inside the carnival of millennial humor

Remember when deodorant ads were just boring background noise between episodes of Seinfeld?

Now, thanks to Old Spice and similar companies following in their footsteps, a new scent to mask body odor is one of the most engaging parts of TV—and it’s all thanks to a shift in generational humor.

To many internet-engrossed millennials, nihilistic and off-kilter wisecracks are comedy gold. This surprising trend has received plenty of attention from some of the world’s most trusted news sources: both The Washington Post and The Guardian have published in-depth articles investigating exactly what’s going on with this phenomenon. Some boil it down to a reincarnated, more accessible type of Dadaism, but on a deeper level there’s another mechanism at play: this development demonstrates a keen understanding of how hard it is to keep pace with a perpetually shifting society.

A common thread in millennial-generated humor is personal finance—and for good reason. According to a Northwestern Mutual study from late 2019, the average amount of debt for people born between 1980 and 2000 is almost $28,000, most of it coming from credit cards and student loans. With friends and siblings swimming in debt, this age group finds jokes about financial stress all too relatable. This doesn’t mean millennials are hopeless—in fact, the opposite rings true. In spite of financial pressure, people in this demographic have found a way to make one another laugh in a way tailored to their concerns. Where there’s laughter, there’s community. And, where there’s community, there’s resilience.

So, what exactly does this mean for credit unions? Don’t worry, you won’t have to photoshop a 20-piece box of Chicken McNuggets onto a Baby Yoda screenshot for your mobile ads. You just need to put your financial expertise to good use.

Fighting Stress with Wisdom

The influx of deadpan jokes about bills, debt, and finance is more than an indication of the stress this generation faces—it also points to a need for guidance from local experts. According to the latest PACE Consumer Report, both younger and older millennials need help from authorities on the ins and outs of finance.

When it comes to “younger” millennials (people aged 20-30):

  • 75% were referred to their primary banking source from a family member or friend
  • Only 8% have a financial advisor
  • Expect the largest number of life events (4) within the next 2-3 years compared to all other age groups

When it comes to “older” millennials (people aged 30-40):

  • 69% are worried about retirement and investment planning
  • Average 22 mobile bank interactions per month (the most out of any age group)
  • Express the most interest in information to help make financial decisions compared to other age groups

A group of people looking for advice? And another group hungry for knowledge? Credit unions are the perfect authority to help!

Wisdom in Action

Some credit unions have recognized this demand to their—and their members’—benefit. After all, a lack of financial literacy isn’t something that can be patched over with whatever appears on the first page of a Google search. Relevant information can vary from state to state, and even from town to town. So, local expertise, something credit unions have in spades, is an invaluable resource for this workforce sector. 

If each credit union is different, so are the needs of its members. Meeting the demands of locals is a crucial component to what sets credit unions apart from for-profit financial institutions. When it comes to educational resources, you can pick and choose what works best for your targeted audience. While in-person classes have a personal, engaging touch, there are other ways to connect with a digitally fluent generation looking for financial guidance. From podcasts to live e-seminars to Reddit AMAs, there are countless ways to share valuable information with the generation most likely to sleep next to their smart phone.

Digital education isn’t the only way to connect to millennials. If you prefer a more personal approach, all you need to do is keep the grassroots history of credit unions in mind. People in this demographic are all about catalyzing change at a peer-to-peer level. After all, it was millennials who revitalized Betty White’s career with a frivolous Facebook group 10 years ago. As a generation who prioritizes shopping local and mindful corporate practices, millennials are all about the little things. Actions as simple as strengthening small business relationships and promoting greener banking policies can nudge this formidable demographic to come to your credit union for guidance.

With more ways than ever to provide guidance to financially preoccupied millennials, credit unions are in a prime spot to do what they do best: provide thoughtful solutions to everyday problems. So, slap on some Old Spice, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. More than any other type of institution, credit unions know that when people come together great things happen.

Ben Prager

Ben Prager

Prior to forming Prager Creative, Ben worked with design studios, branding firms and advertising agencies to push great strategy and design for all his projects. His experience with all aspects ... Web: Details