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Skeptical Optimists?

by GfK Financial Services , 01.05.2012

Millennials are a paradox. They value relationships, a team effort, and the accomplishment of a job well done. Yet, they manage to balk as financial services companies attempt to reach out to them in hopes of building, well, relationships. Much to the chagrin of marketing departments throughout the industry and beyond, Millennials are a difficult bunch to reach.

Perhaps this generation sees through companies’ overtures of relationships for what their true goals are – to build brand affinity and loyalty (read: $$$) – and doesn’t like it. A study released by the PEW Research Center in 2010 [1] found that only about three in ten people below the age of 30 believe that “most people can be trusted”. If Millennials do not carry much confidence in the people they meet on the street, it stands to reason that they will be just as skeptical in corporate interactions. In an otherwise socially and culturally accepting generation, Millennials will not tolerate the idea of ulterior motives.

Further, this young generation has marked its coming of age in a dismal economy which has made starting out on one’s own difficult, if not impossible. In a society that likes to point fingers, it is going to take a while for the financial services sector to reconstruct a rapport with a generation that feels wronged, if by nothing else than by happenstance.

Millennials might be marketing averse, but that does not mean that the door is entirely closed. Three quarters of 18 to 35 year olds think that they are about the same or worse off financially now than they were in the last year[2]. Conversely, nearly half believe that within the next 12 months they will fare better on the financial front. If their tides turn as anticipated, a large portion of Millennials will have newfound means to re-enter or initiate relationships with financial services companies. The companies that best harness this optimism now stand to gain a lot later, that is, if they are willing to play by a different set of rules that are yet to be written.


[1] http://pewresearch.org/millennials/

[2] GfK MRI Doublebase 2011 (http://www.gfkmri.com/ConsumerInsights.aspx)