Money, Technology

A Slightly Warped View of Post-Recession Families

   August 23 2011   0 Comments

There are many theories why parents struggle to teach their children positive money skills. Here’s one theory we can all agree on: the challenge of living in a consumer-centric society. Case in point: a recent article published by the Huffington Post that lists the top 23 must-haves for students returning back-to-school. And before you ask, no, this wasn’t posted in their Comedy section. Here’s the list:

  1. Bose noise canceling headphones
  2. Spotify music subscription
  3. iRobot Mini Scooba 230
  4. Gadget Track
  5. Netflix subscription
  6. Dropbox
  7. iphone case/battery juicer
  8. Keurig Mini Plus Brewing System
  9. Note taking iPad app
  10. PowerShot Digital Camera
  11. Water powered alarm clock
  12. Kensignton laptop lock
  13. Voltaic Converter Solar Backpack
  14. Laptop case
  15. Kno iPad App
  16. SanDisk Cruzer USB drive
  17. iHome iA9BZC iPhone speakers
  18. Motion-Activated Closet Light
  19. Netbook
  20. Snoozerr Recordings app
  21. ThermaPAK Laptop Cooling Heatshift Pad
  22. Kindle eReader
  23. QuickCam Pro 9000 Webcam

So what’s this going to run mom and dad? Hold on folks. The total cost (calculated by my quick search across the web) is a whopping $2,224. What makes this a bit more alarming is how the Huffington Post frames the article:

“Whether you’re in college, high school, middle school or simply a caring parent, these tech accessories will help any student achieve high-marks in class–and unwind when the cramming is over.” – The Huffington Post

C’mon HuffPo, we’re entering the third back-to-school year in a row in which many U.S. families are struggling to pay bills and make ends meet. Companies (and publishers) need to understand the reality of a post-recession environment. Sure, Keeping up with the Kardashians is a popular television show, but it’s not necessarily a serious aspiration for most families. OK, I admit that everyone wants an iPad, but for most families, $2,224 worth of techie extras is strictly off the back-to-school budget.

Companies that address the fundamental shift in consumer behavior and respond accordingly will be embraced by American households. The recession has changed everything—it’s a whole new world for marketers to explore.

For our credit union partners who work so hard to provide financial literacy to parents and youth, we have our work cut out for us. But it’s not an impossible task. Fortunately, we have moms and dads on our side. They understand this new reality better than anyone. Now, we just need to get everyone else on the same page.

Marketing, Media, Technology

Radiohead’s Unscripted Social Media Success

   June 30 2011   0 Comments

Musician and amateur video editor, Ohadi Amram (AKA Ohadi22), recently created a video for the Radiohead song, Paranoid Android, using only clips from videos uploaded by 35 YouTube users from around the world. These people (as well as Radiohead) had no idea they were going to be a part of the project. The 35 users were ordinary people who recorded themselves performing their version of the song, and then did what everyone else does today: shared it with the world on YouTube.

The end result is brilliant. Ohadi22 masterfully mixed and edited all 35 videos together to create a cohesive rendition (seriously, he did an amazing job). But even more important (at least to this blog post), the project is a reminder of the impact social media and collaboration has on Gen Y marketing today. And, nobody does a better job of utilizing these resources than the band Radiohead.

A little music history
If you’re not familiar with Radiohead, they are considered by many as one of the world’s most acclaimed bands. Not only are they innovators in the studio and on the stage, but they’ve also done their part to upend the conventional music business model. Case in point: they’ve been without a record label for years, successfully releasing music on their own. This included a downloadable album that fans could “pay what they want” or pay nothing at all (don’t worry, they made plenty of money).

Here’s Ohadi22‘s Paranoid Android video:

So how does this relate to social media, collaboration, marketing and Gen Y?

1. The Facebook factor. The video, which was created without the band’s consent, eventually caught the attention of Radiohead themselves, who in turn posted it to their 6.5 million Facebook fans. That’s how it crossed my path. The band uses Facebook as a platform for instant communication with fans simply because that’s where most of them can be found. Now keep in mind, most companies will never be as cool as Radiohead, so to truly engage a youth audience, you’ll need to know what type of currency your audience is expecting to receive. The preferred currency for Radiohead fans is band information and music. For many companies, the currency will be actual money (contests, discounts, free stuff, etc.).

2. The power of user-created content. Radiohead didn’t have to lift a finger to create this video, yet they were able to disseminate it and  benefit from its promotion. The amount of time the 35 artists (and Ohadi 22) spent arranging, recording and editing their versions easily took hundreds of hours … and they did it all for free. It worked because Radiohead didn’t fight back with a cease and desist. They respected and honored the effort by helping the video go viral.

3. And speaking of viral … Radiohead, Ohadi22 and the 35 artists all took part in the purest form of viral marketing. Do a Google search on “Radiohead + Ohadi22” and you’ll see pages and pages of results from blogs and sites talking about the video. This wasn’t calculated, planned or developed in a boardroom. It just happened. In cases where a company wants to “create” a viral campaign, at some point the spark needs to ignite organically, or else it just seems forced and contrived. And it usually never works.

4. The collaborative nature of consumers. Whether it’s the love of a band, a sports team, or even an event, it’s easier than ever to connect with like-minded people anywhere in the world. The 35 artists were all willing to share their interpretation of Paranoid Android with each other on YouTube—and engage the world in the form of comments and critiques. Companies need to give consumers an easy way to collaborate and communicate with each other (i.e. comments and reviews), instead of building walls between them.

5. Ease of entry for filming/editing video. It wasn’t too long ago when the only way a band (or company) could create a commercially viable video was to spend a whole lot of money. Today, nearly everyone has access to a video recorder and editing software. Just as ubiquitous photography has been on brochures over the past few decades, video is quickly becoming an expected norm as a way to consume content.

6. Gen Y’s passion for music. Despite the fact that music industry sales have suffered it’s greatest decline under Gen Y’s watch, music is more popular than ever. This isn’t too surprising seeing that this is the first generation raised by MTV parents (when MTV still played music). They can’t get enough of it—just take a look at the  success of Glee, American Idol, and The Voice for a clue. And it’s not enough to be a passive fan anymore. YouTube is filled with videos of people turning a video camera on themselves and uploading the results for everyone to see, which leads us to the final point …

7. The emergence of the “Me” generation. Gen Y is a generation that went from being the most coddled children in American history (Baby on Board, anyone?) to updating the world of their every move through Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare. Everyone is important. While YouTube is a fantastic vehicle for discovering and viewing videos, it’s also a unique platform for self-promotion and expression. This explains why there are so many videos of cover songs by (probably) hundreds of thousands of fans, amateur musicians and simply bored Gen Yers.

OK, so there’s nothing ground-breaking about this list. As a matter of fact, everything mentioned above has been talked about ad naseum by social media mavens, Gen Y experts and marketing folk for the past few years. However, it was the organic nature of the video and the real-world viral success Radiohead enjoys that is a reminder that we truly are living in a different world. This video wasn’t grown in a corporate petri dish. It’s just happened because it could.


Kids Rock Lollapalooza

   April 27 2011   0 Comments

Need more proof that Gen X & Y parents want to share their love of music with their children? As I wrote in my previous post, Kids and Coachella, the outdoor music festival industry is experiencing a shift in how young Gen X & Y parents attend concerts—in many cases, they’re bringing their kids along with them. The opportunity for concert promoters to capitalize on this trend is tremendous.

Since 2009, the original Gen X music festival, Lollapalooza, has had a family-themed version hosted in conjunction with the annual concert (held in Chicago’s Grant Park). Titled Kidzapalooza, families are treated to popular kindie rock performers, as well as music-inspired activities including Rock Star Video Karaoke, Hip Hop Workshop, DrumZone and Break Dancing Workshops.

And the best part of Kidzapalooza? It’s free for kids under 10 when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult attending Lollapalooza.

OK Coachella, your move.


Kids and Coachella

   April 20 2011   6 Comments

The Coachella Music and Arts Festival isn’t exactly your parents’ rock concert. Well, unless of course your parents were born after 1964 and are part of what’s known as Generation X or Y. If that’s the case, it’s possible that you’ll attend Coachella with mom and dad.

Generation X is, after all, the original MTV generation (back when MTV actually played music videos). It’s no wonder that Gen X parents continue to be huge consumers of music, and are more in-tune with current music trends than past generations of parents. And, they’re much more likely to share this passion with their children. How else can you explain the popularity of lullaby renditions of Gen X bands such as these:

It should be of no surprise that the next logical step for music-loving Gen Xers is to bring their kids to one of the largest music festivals in the world—Coachella.

And with older Gen Yers entering their child-bearing years and mirroring Gen X’s affinity for music (courtesy of 24/7 access via iPods, streaming, Internet radio, video on demand, etc.), young families are packing up the diaper bag, stocking up on juice boxes and slathering on the Coppertone for Kids … and toting their hip toddlers to Indio, California to take in the three-day music festival.

In between great sets by Arcade Fire, PJ Harvey, Mumford & Sons, The Joy Formidable and many, many others, I had a chance to speak to a number of parents with kids (and teens) in tow.

First there was the forty-something mom who was there on a photo assignment for a local newspaper. She took the opportunity to bring her son and his two teen friends to the concert. During their dinner break together, she shared her day’s work (tons of fantastic shots) while the boys mapped out the rest of the evening’s musical choices. The whole thing was strikingly similar to a typical end-of-the-day kitchen table conversation.

Then there was the Gen X mom enjoying a quick drink in the beer garden while her daughter and friend watched a band. “I bought my daughter Coachella tickets for her sixteenth birthday,” she explains. “It’s a big milestone, so I decided to do something nice for her.”

On the younger end of the spectator spectrum was a local family carting a fully-stocked stroller. “This is our third Coachella as a family,” mom says as dad plays with their two children in front of the Do LaB, an oasis of sorts in the middle of the grounds, featuring misters and various water sprays. As she takes in the pulsating music coming from inside the Do LaB she admits, “We won’t take them in there, because it’s too loud. Out here is where the fun’s at.”

One of Coachella’s many featured artists brought his wife and two young daughters to enjoy the show for the weekend. “When my wife found out I was exhibiting at Coachella, one of the first things she did was research headphones for the kids,” he says. The headphones seem to do the trick—even the youngest, a toddler, was grooving to a set by Erykah Badu.

Even the stars of Nickelodeon children’s series, Yo Gabba Gabba, have made a Coachella appearance in the past:

So does all this mean Coachella is rated G? Hardly. Funny-smelling smoke still fills the air at times, and just one listen to headliner Kanye West’s lyrics will have parents struggling to explain the meaning of new, colorful words.

However, it does mean that the music industry has an opportunity to review how they package outdoor festivals in light of generational shifts. For instance, Goldenvoice, the promoters that put on Coachella, also produce a festival called Stagecoach, usually two weeks after Coachella. Stagecoach focuses on country music and offers family activities such as a petting zoo, games, live music for kids and a free “tag-a-kid” service to prevent lost little ones.

On the broader front, it’s a reminder that in many ways, today’s youth market is really the family market. Unlike past generations, parents and kids today actually talk to each other. They share many of the same musical tastes and fashion sense. They watch many of the same television programs.

Whether it’s a parent influencing a teen on where to open a savings account, or a child influencing what brand of peanut butter mom buys, the opportunity for co-marketing in today’s family-centric environment is immense.


Gen Y and Customer Satisfaction: A Third Opinion

   March 22 2011   3 Comments

Two items caught my attention last week. The first was an article in CU Times reporting on a survey conducted by MyCUSurvey. The survey reported two significant findings:

1. A negative correlation between the age of credit union members and customer satisfaction, with a 30-point difference in satisfaction ratings between younger members and those over age 65.
2. Members who visit their branch at least once a week demonstrated 10 points higher satisfaction than members who visit a branch less frequently and 14 points higher than members who never visit their local branch.

MyCUSurvey’s founder, Jack Bieder, had this to say about the findings:

“The convenience of Web and mobile banking and other trends are undermining credit union member satisfaction. It’s clear that credit unions need to find a way to attract younger members and get members to visit their branches for a more personalized banking experience in order to cement the member relationship,”

OK, I totally get what Mr. Bieder is saying and I have to admit that I agree with his line of reasoning. But hold on, I then read a blog post from Tim McAlpine from Currency Marketing in response to Mr. Bieder’s comments. Here’s what Tim wrote:

“I agree that credit unions need to find a way to attract younger members, but thinking that getting them to visit a branch will do the trick is exactly the opposite of what young people want. What they want is ‘the convenience of the web and mobile’ that most credit unions simply don’t have!”

While I usually agree with most of what Tim says (how can you not?), I found myself slightly at odds with his response. So then I started thinking a bit more. Did I miss something? Is the solution to increasing customer service as simple as adding mobile banking?

After a little reflection, here’s my (unsolicited) opinion on the matter:

Mr. Bieder made a valid point by saying mobile and web banking are undermining member satisfaction. I thought that statement was a given—without face-to-face personal contact, it is more challenging to cement a relationship, and more difficult to nurture customer satisfaction. It’s not impossible, just more challenging. After all, a one-on-one connection is more effective in nurturing a long-term relationship with consumers, even those with a propensity to live their lives online.

Case in point: just look at the success of Apple—they constantly reign supreme in most customer satisfaction lists. The Apple customer service strategy is a great model for credit unions. This is a company that could easily adopt a 100% online experience, yet they choose not to (i.e. the Apple Stores). Early on, they understood the value of human contact, and were innovators in moving the brand experience beyond the online realm typically occupied by tech companies.

Apple Store, 5th Ave., NYC, 7/12/08 - 12 of 19

Photo by Goodrob13

They’ve rolled out Genius Bars and training labs around the world. Their staff members are Apple evangelists who can look a person in the eyes, answer questions, express their passion and, most importantly, make a human connection. This is what builds customer satisfaction. This is a much deeper and richer experience than simply providing a link to a video with a “purchase now” button.

Genius bar - spørg og få et godt svar

Photo by Jens Hofman Hansen

Yes, Tim is absolutely correct in suggesting that mobile and web services are crucial for attracting younger members. This should be as basic as offering a checking account and debit card. Unfortunately, as he points out, not many credit unions are investing in the technology needed to compete in the banking space. But this is only one part of the equation. Web and mobile banking must be supported by in-person services. People don’t make an emotional connection with a login screen. They respond to other people.

Credit union staff need to be able to look a member in the eyes and convey passion for what the credit union movement is about. They need to comfort young members who are struggling with rising school loans and credit card debt. They need to be evangelists.

Whether this happens in a traditional branch setting or some other innovative space is yet to be determined. Maybe the next wave of innovation should come not solely in terms of online/mobile access, but in how credit unions engage members in the physical world in support of their mobile products and services (i.e. the Apple Genius Bar model).

We recently released a video report, “Gen Y and Money,” which had a great quote from a 22-year-old credit union member named Cait. Here’s what Cait had to say:

“I use a credit union and I go there a lot, probably like once every two weeks, so I do feel like it’s a nice place to go and see the same people all the time, and it does make me feel good about what I’m doing with my money.”

You can view the video here.

Cait is someone who is completely connected online: she actively tweets, maintains a Facebook presence and has her own blog, yet she enjoys the comfort her credit union branch gives her. I don’t know if she’s a typical Gen Yer, but she’s a typical human being. She responds to personal attention and that’s what drives customer/member satisfaction.

Marketing, Media

“Your Words Today” Campaign Promotes Hispanic Parental Engagement

   March 21 2011   5 Comments

According to a study conducted by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, Hispanics who have gone to college rank their parents as being most influential in their decision to continue their schooling. However, more than 65% of Hispanic parents do not have the knowledge to guide their children as they seek to apply and enroll in college.

This challenge is at the center of a campaign sponsored by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and The Ad Council, with creative by the Grupo Gallegos ad agency. The first spot, “Julian” captures a voice-over conversation between a mother who wants her son to attend college, and her son who wants to skip college to get a job so he can buy “new stuff” like a phone and a car. The commercial focuses on the reasons mom and son each give to support their position. Here’s the spot:

The real emotional wallop comes as we see the son’s future unfold and change during the conversation; his economic future tied to each potential path. Most striking is the briefcase that turns into a small ice cooler and back again, signifying that the real choice at stake is between a white-collar career or a blue-collar job. These are visuals that any parent can relate to, regardless of ethnicity or economic status. The commercial’s closing reminder, “Their tomorrow depends on your words today,” puts the responsibility squarely on the parent’s shoulders.

This is an extremely powerful message, executed in a way that effectively hits an emotional nerve. And like I mentioned earlier, although it was created for an Hispanic audience, the message really speaks to parents of any race or ethnicity. It’s a really touching commercial that effectively speaks to parents.

The campaign is supported with a fantastic website (, which provides a number of resources for parents including information on planning and paying for college.


Teens tweet “what it means to be a credit union member”

   March 16 2011   1 Comment

We just wrapped up our Second Annual Tweet for College Scholarship for high school seniors. The scholarship is part of our cooperative Elements of Money program for credit union teens. To qualify for the scholarship, we asked teens to tell us what it means to them to be a credit union member. We had only one submission requirement: their response must be submitted via Twitter—and within the site’s 140 character limit.

So what did teens have to say about credit unions? We generated a word cloud using the tweets we collected. As you’ll see, some of the most popular words teens used were “financial,” “community,” “family,” “future,” “money,” and “college.”

And here are the winning tweets:

Overall winner:

Being a credit union member means achieving my financial goals with a safe, secure family-oriented institution. IT ROCKS! #elementsofmoney
Dillon Arnold


Being a TDECU member means being able to manage my time and money in the safest, fastest, and smartest way possible! #elementsofmoney
Scotty Collard

@ElementsofMoney Being a credit union member, I belong to a vital family-oriented community group that instills financial responsibility.
Lauren Tomasulo

Being a Credit Union member means that I have taken steps to prepare, financially, for college and the rest of my life. #elementsofmoney

We’ll be posting additional tweets, as well as twitter analytics in the coming weeks.

You can follow the Elements of Money on Twitter and on Facebook, or visit the Elements Factory for information on the program.


Gen Y and Money – Part 2

   February 03 2011   0 Comments

In a previous post, we shared a video report conducted by Subcat Marketing’s Gen Y correspondent, Kristin Dziadul. Kristin interviewed four Gen Yers, as well as surveyed 40 college students, asking questions regarding their attitudes toward money and banking. In part two of this report, Kristin provides her analysis of her findings.

We want to thank Kristin for her work on this project.

Kristin currently is the Marketing & Social Media Analyst for Backupify. She is a Gen Y correspondent for Subcat Marketing, and blogs for BostInnovation and kdmedianow.


Special Report: Gen Y and Money

   January 13 2011   1 Comment

We’re very happy to share our latest report, “Gen Y and Money,” developed by Subcat Marketing’s Gen Y correspondent, Kristin Dziadul. Kristin interviewed four Gen Yers, as well as surveyed 40 college students, asking questions regarding their attitudes toward money and banking. The video report is in two parts. Part one focuses on the first-person interviews, while part two focuses on Kristin’s analysis of the interviews and survey responses. Here’s part one:

Part two will be posted next week, as well as an overview of the survey results.

Kristin currently is the Marketing & Social Media Analyst for Backupify. She is a Gen Y correspondent for Subcat Marketing, and blogs for BostInnovation and kdmedianow.


Welcome to X / Y / Z Mashup

   December 30 2010   1 Comment

After a nine-month hiatus, the Subcat Marketing blog is back online with a new name and refined focus on the world of kids, teens & young adults—and the parents who love them.

Welcome to Subcat’s X/Y/Z Mashup.

Through our extensive research and work within the youth market, one thing has become clear: family matters. Whether it’s the Gen Y mom monitoring the media habits of her pre-schooler, the Gen X dad discussing finances with his college-bound child, or the whole family sharing a cell phone plan, today’s generations are inextricably connected.

Our goal with the X/Y/Z Mashup is to explore all facets of youth and family culture, and interpret what this means to marketers, educators and researchers. In our blog, you can expect us to provide an analysis of current efforts by some of the biggest names in youth and family marketing, we’ll explore the banking habits of teens and young adults, we’ll take a peek at the latest in kids’ media, we’ll dig in deep to understand today’s family dynamics, and we’ll uncover the role of technology, gadgets and social media in the youth space.

And we’re going to have fun doing it!