Peace, love, and credit unions

“Hippie” values are back, and it’s time for credit unions to dig out those old tie-dyed tees and headbands and get ready to group-hug a whole new generation.

Millennials (approximately speaking, people 18-36 years old) are absolutely starving for a “what’s in it for everyone” message, and they’re in their prime buying and borrowing years. Credit unions have every right to claim and own this message in the financial world.

While Millennials and GenZ may not be aware of what a credit union really is, they instinctively see the value of a non-profit financial cooperative once it’s explained to them, and they respond strongly and positively to cooperative values.

You’re probably sick of hearing this, but this is a group with huge financial and cultural power — they’re not kids anymore. And they have some fundamentally different values and behaviors than their GenX and Boomer parents and grandparents. For example:

70% are willing to pay more for a product that makes an impact on issues they care about, and 90% of MBAs from business schools prefer working for organizations committed to social responsibility.

More than any previous generation, millennials are investing in organizations that prioritize the greater good. Think about that — their grandparents and parents were part of the “hippie” generation, but the millennials are actually putting more of their money where their values are.

86 percent believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance, and 76 percent look at business as a force for positive social impact. They were probably in high school or college during the 2008 recession, so they’ve seen and struggled with the effects of unrestrained greed.

Millennials are more likely to use public libraries than preceding generations Of course, libraries don’t do the same things as credit unions. But there are quite a few similarities between institutions that exist only for social good, not profit.

Even more interesting, perhaps, is that the “do good, feel good” approach is good for both people and businesses. Studies have shown that businesses with an authentic sense of purpose also have stronger long-term growth.

However, when it comes to brand and marketing message, too many credit unions have abandoned the cooperative message, or even think it’s old-fashioned. Many have spent a few decades focusing on “what’s in it for me” messages targeted to GenX and Boomer members, and even acting as much like banks as possible in everything from architecture to overdraft policies.

But when the CEO of CUNA is telling credit unions they have a perception problem and wonders out loud about the future, then it may be time to rethink that approach. Concepts like sustainability, local investment, peer-to-peer, people-over-profits, what’s in it for everyone, and even peace and love have a lot more power and resonance with the new generations.

Cooperative values are why credit unions are an essential part of our shared future, and these values resonate perfectly with the new generations. We need to make sure they know all about credit unions and that they actually experience the difference.

Brian Wringer

Brian Wringer

Former watermelon farmer Brian Wringer wears several hats for iDiz Incorporated, including Web Projects Manager, Wordsmith, and Big Idea Guy. He builds better credit unions by day and weird old ... Web: Details