Why Brand Relatability Matters to Millennials and Gen Z

On Tuesday, March 26, the FCS partnered with BrandCap on a presentation and panel discussion on research from BrandCap entitled “Is Your Financial Brand Relatable?” BrandCap recently completed a study among 1,000 consumers, age 18-36, analyzing how well they relate and connect to insurgent vs. incumbent financial services brands measured across the following four attributes:

  • Competence: Whether audiences think the brand is credible
  • Empathy: Does the brand demonstrates that it understands consumer needs
  • Character: Does the brand reflect and act in way that reflects their values
  • Confidence: Is this a brand consumers trust and rely on

The event featured a keynote presentation by Ryan Arshad, BrandCap’s U.S. Managing Director. A copy of his presentation can be downloaded here.

BrandCap’s U.S. Chairman David Martin then moderated a panel discussion with:

  • Patricia Korth-McDonnell, Chief Marketing Officer, Better.com
  • Julia Pawling, Manager, Global Brand Marketing, AIG
  • Dr. Jon Roberts, President, Dotdash Finance
  • Beth Wood, VP, Chief Marketing Officer, Guardian Life

A few takeaways from the event include:

  1. The notion of Relatability goes deeper than relevancy tapping into fundamental human truths: the need for belonging, to be listened to empathetically, and the need to feel seen and valued. Relatability drives brand consideration for these audiences (Gen Z and Millennials). However, the drivers of relatability are different for these different generations.
    • Millennials value ‘competence’, whether the brand in question is credible as well as ‘confidence,’ if it is a brand they can trust and rely on.
    • Gen Z places a premium on ‘character,’ if the brand reflects and acts in a way which aligns with their values and ‘empathy,’ if it is a brand that understands and evolves with their wants and needs
  2. Gen Z and Millennials are breaking into financial services – approaching or entering into their prime earning, spending and borrowing years. As such, these two cohorts represent significant growth opportunities for the sector.
    • 25% (19 million) are searching for their first checking account
    • 72% (53 million) are actively in the market for additional financial products
    • $153 billion – Gen Z’s estimated earnings, with overall spending of almost $100 billion
  3. Personality-wise, the financial services category still struggles with creating an emotional connection with these consumers. The challenge is that the mindset of this younger generation is at odds with the traditional banking model (e.g. this cohort is conscientious, digitally minded, expects personalization vs traditional banks, which are traditionally perceived as capitalistic in nature, process heavy and undergoing digital updates). While some financial services brands are outperforming, there is an opportunity for the category to improve.
  4. Branding can help bring relatability to life through in three big ways:  
    • Through content and storytelling that helps audiences understand the offer and service
    • By establishing and sustaining a sense of freshness that demonstrates empathy and understanding of the users’ evolving needs
    • By identifying and easing pain points in the customer journey and empowering audiences on how they can partner to help build a stronger financial future together
  5. Incumbent brands, such as AIG and Guardian, are turning their attention to repositioning themselves to better connect with Gen Z and Millennials by focusing on relationship building, thought leadership, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and employer branding. Meanwhile, insurgent brands, such as Marcus and Venmo are leveraging the relationship and heritage of their parent company (JP Morgan Chase & PayPal, respectively) to instill trust and confidence among new users.
written by
Lindsay Beltzer, Brandcap