Stop Apologizing Already

Remember back when Buick was trying to reinvent themselves with the tagline “This is not your father’s Buick?” That was in 2009 when GM tried to lower the average age of a Buick owner from 63 to the mid 50’s.

Buick, like Cadillac was a symbol of success among my parent’s and grandparent’s generation. I remember my dad dreaming of the day he could trade in his Mercury Monterey station wagon (there were 5 kids in my family) for a Cadillac Seville.  I also remember every time I saw a Buick on the road it had a AAA sticker on the bumper, the driver’s grey-haired head could barely see over the steering wheel and they were traveling 10 miles under the speed limit. Sterotype? You bet.


Buick has reemerged with yet another attempt to appeal to the younger generation. The debut ad featured a grandma in her front yard looking at her neighbor’s new car exclaiming “That’s not a Buick!” Only grandma would know what a Buick SHOULD look like. Thanks for the ringing endorsement old lady – now I feel really good about my purchase. I bought an old, outdated, unsexy car in a new shell.

There’s a new trend emerging in the commercial-sphere. Teaser ads that urge you to go online to see “the rest of the story.” In the case of Buick it centers on their service and the “surprise” you’ll get when you take your car in. Spoil alert: they hired an illusionist to pull a puppy out of an envelope and hand it to the owner. Of course everyone loves a puppy but here’s the rub and why this is such a bad approach:

1)    Puppies are not prizes, they are little creatures that require a lot of love and care

2)    At the end of the ad they declare the puppies were just “actors”

3)    Joke’s on you Buick owner – I just gave you a puppy, let you have a moment imagining your life with it (good or bad) and then took it back

So what is the point of this fiasco? Expect the unexpected when you get your Buick serviced. Why this ad missed the boat – Buick’s service is nothing different.

This is why I hate advertising. All the money in the world cannot change your image (think JC Penney) only your actions and commitment to change can truly change the perception people have of you.

Are credit unions the Buick of financial institutions? We were founded by the Millenials Great Grandfathers. I am constantly asked in my consulting “How can we appeal to the younger generation?” Not with snappy ads or by drawing attention to the fact that we’ve been around forever, aka old.

I found a wonderful white paper on yesterday. It’s The 2014 Independent Community Bankers of America’s Millennials and Community Banking Study.  

Snapshot of Millennials in the US:

-       Currently ages 19 to 37

-       Number about 79.8 million

-       Getting married and having their first child later than any previous generation

-       Most ethnically diverse generation in recent US history

-       Greatest number of college graduations ever; twice as many degrees conferred in 2009 as in 1970

-       Buying their first home later than previous generations

-       Came of age with the internet, mobile devices, and ubiquitous social media

-       Currently represent the greatest lifetime value of any banking customer

-       Millennials are by far the generation most interested in learning about how to start and run a successful business.

That last bullet point blew me away. And yet it makes sense. These kids came of age during the Great Recession, fresh out of college with very little opportunity. They began the crowd funding concept to fund their ideas and to build their businesses. And their generation supported them with their deposits. Imagine that? People who have money in savings pledging it for those that need a loan? Sounds vaguely familiary….I think it was my grandfather’s idea.