This is the first of 3 posts that ran on

Today’s financial institutions, like other industry sectors, recognize how important it is to reach out to the Generation Y cohort of 18- to 30-year-olds. Traditional, conservative and stuffy marketing approaches do not work with these digital natives—and neither does throwing social media technology or “cool” marketing on top of existing approaches. While Gen Y likes technology, a lot of interaction and great deals, they also want you to embrace fun and humor, and help them achieve their goals. They want you to change the way you do business in order to earn theirs.

One area where credit unions already have an advantage over banks is in developing deeper customer relationships, and social media can facilitate even richer connections. The good news is there are many ways to increase your relevance by using serious technology combined with a not-so-serious tone.

After all, marketing should be fun if you’re doing it right.

Humor me! Social Technology Meets Fun

In its research, Forrester found that Gen Y members value humor—even odd humor—and embrace it in business. They also view banks with a bit more apprehension, as they feel most financial institutions “don’t get them.” Consequently, it takes not only an investment in technology to reach this group; it also requires a commitment to changing the content of your communications. The key is to communicate that your credit union understands what Gen Y values. And humor is a way to build that generational bridge.

That Gen Y values humor is great news: it can help your marketing cut through lots of noise in a crowded market. Additionally, fun as a wrapper for great content adds value. There is no reason great information has to be delivered in a stodgy way. However, fun without a targeted, relevant approach is pandering.

It’s not enough to use mobile technology and web 2.0 platforms. A powerful and credible marketing approach to Gen Y must involve the integration of social technologies, the right messaging and personality, and an engaging, interactive user experience. Social media, like all great customer experiences, is about connecting with people. Otherwise, they would have called it anti-social media!

Work That Humor Muscle

So, how can you integrate humor with technology? First, it is important to understand what fun and humor are and how to make them pay off. Funny is great; yet, just having a fun attitude that makes customers smile is an important step in the right direction.

Here’s the most important point to remember: Humor is about the element of surprise. The question to ask isn’t, “How can we make people laugh?” Trying to be funny is a needlessly high and daunting bar to reach. Thus, the right question to consider is, “How can we surprise our audience?” When expectations are inverted, we are delighted. Here is the great news: because banking hasn’t exactly been known as a “fun factory,” there are many things your credit union can do to upend expectations and change the way you are perceived. Consider integrating fun, humor and technology into the following elements as part of your larger marketing strategy: video, contests, apps and games, and social networks.

By Kathy Klotz-Guest

To be continued. Part 2 will explore video and contests…