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If Your Customers Keep Getting Younger, Why Are You Trying To Reach Them With The Same Old Media?

Does anybody under the age of forty read the newspaper anymore? There are exceptions, of course, but the truth is that Gen Xers, millennials and an increasing number of baby boomers have traded in their Sunday paper for a smartphone. Microblogging sites like Twitter are increasingly making the content in our local papers old news, and readership levels of print-based media continue to wane. In fact, the readership of weekday morning newspapers has been sliding since 1990.

This is simply the evolution of media, you might say – and you would be right. But it has created a strange dichotomy in the world of banking. Those in the executive suite at most banks tend to be very educated, relatively affluent and over the age of 40. In other words, they’re smack dab in the middle of the sweet spot when it comes to the newspaper industry’s target audience. They grew up reading the paper, and they still enjoy it with their coffee every morning. It connects them to the world.

With that familiarity can come a false sense of the medium’s popularity, though. “Everybody reads the paper,” those bank executives might say to themselves, “after all, I do and so do all of my friends.” As a result, many banks continue to market themselves via print even though virtually zero percent of their prospective new customers will ever subscribe to (or even hold) a newspaper in their lives.

This isn’t to say that newspapers don’t have value. They do. When marketers want to reach educated, affluent people over the age of 40, newspaper is still a solid option. To reach a thirty-year-old mom, though, you need to rethink your strategy. At the very least, you should trade in the printed edition of the newspaper for the online version. Even better, you need to consider options like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Broadcast and cable-based media are facing a similar dilemma. Streaming services like Spotify and Pandora are taking listeners away from radio stations, and the television industry has been staggered by the likes of Netflix and Hulu.

This media paradox is more pronounced in banking than in many other industries because older, more affluent consumers tend to be important customers but offer very little growth potential. Anyone who has ever tried to promote a bank knows how challenging it is to get a customer to switch institutions, and older customers are even harder to influence. Banks need their large deposits to operate, but the truth is that they are a somewhat captive audience that is more in need of maintenance than marketing.

Younger consumers, on the other hand, are more likely to move. They borrow more, and they use more services that generate fee income. Consequently, they offer much better ROI when it comes to media spending, yet a good number of community banks continue to pursue them with the same communication tactics that they use in search of more mature customers. Creating a newspaper ad for consumer lending indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of who is still reading the newspaper.

In order for community banks to challenge the massive retail banks of the world, they need to adjust their media mix and continue to do so as their customers change. Do you need to make loans and attract new customers? Focus on social media, online platforms and more guerrilla tactics like retargeting (show online ads to users who have visited your site or searched for terms related to your products). Need to encourage deposit accounts like CDs? Employ more traditional media vehicles like radio, TV and newspaper. If you’re like most banks, you have a need for both kinds of customers, and thus you will need to spread your spending around to many of these media options. Consider leveraging the content you create for one medium (a TV commercial, for example) on others (like youTube or Hulu) to improve efficiencies.

The key is to maximize your resources by choosing the correct message for the right target audience, then deliver it via the proper media. Start by admitting that you are not your target audience. Not only do you work at a bank (which precludes you from being objective about banking), you may not have the same media preferences as the people you are trying to attract. If you can, do some research and find out exactly where your best prospects are getting their information. You might be surprised at what you find.

Even if you don’t take advantage of social media or spend a lot of time streaming music or videos, it’s time for you to get comfortable with the online world’s dominance in today’s media marketplace. Advertisers spend significantly more dollars online globally today than on traditional media, and there is a reason for that – it’s where most of the attractive prospects are. Don’t let your own habits or preferences influence your marketing decisions. Use your prospective customers’ habits and preferences to determine how your branding messages will be delivered. After all, they’re the ones you’re looking to attract.

Greg “Hal” Halliday is the president of Anchor Marketing, a branding and new media agency that specializes in successful differentiation and positioning. Anchor Marketing has spent nearly 20 years branding and marketing independent banks in Minnesota and North Dakota. Halliday is recognized as a Certified Financial Marketing Professional by the American Bankers Association. You can contact him via phone at 701-787-8230 or by email at halh@anchorwebsite.com.