To raise awareness of community banks and differentiate them from the competition, such as credit unions and megabanks, ICBA has launched a millennial-focused national consumer campaign. ICBA members can also take advantage of this campaign and share it in their local market. 

The national campaign focuses on “community-minded millennials,” born between 1981 and 1996, with lifestyles and values that align with the mission of community banks.

“ICBA decided to target millennials because our research showed that more than any other generation, millennials show an affinity for supporting and connecting with their community,” says Rob Birgfeld, ICBA executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “That, of course, is a characteristic that makes community banking unique. The money deposited with community banks stays in the communities they serve, propping up and supporting the very businesses many millennials seek to support.”

Establishing a marketing strategy

The national campaign is powered by data and includes market research, creative advertising, public relations and social media strategy. ICBA members themselves are also a key part of the campaign, namely by making use of the National Campaign Toolkit, which includes campaign research learnings, advertising, public relations content and more.

To reach millennials, Birgfeld says community banks must establish a strong foundation of market knowledge. “First, we know we have to drive greater awareness [about community banking],” he says. “And that starts with gauging our success every step of the way—what messages connect with our audiences, where we connect and what strategies help to create a movement.”

“Community banks use customers’ deposits to support local businesses and ventures. We don’t take money from one place and ship it out to someplace else ... We just keep it all local.”
—Lucas White, Fountain Trust Company

ICBA aims to continue the campaign, with each initiative being refined in reaction to what drives awareness, interest and eventually attracts new customers. “By passing insights from this campaign to our members, ICBA will help community banks’ collective voice—whether via national or local outreach—to reach a broader audience,” Birgfeld says.

Why millennials?

What makes millennials a valuable market for community banks? As the largest generation, at 72 million people, millennials make up 43% of homebuyers as of 2022 and will comprise 75% of vehicle purchases by 2025. Millennials also value banks that support local communities—46% note it as one of the most important characteristics of a perfect bank. 

“Community banks use customers’ deposits to support local businesses and ventures,” says Lucas White, ICBA vice chairman and president of $700 million-asset Fountain Trust Company in Covington, Ind. “We don’t take money from one place and ship it out to someplace else ... We just keep it all local.” Knowing this basic fact about the community bank mission could convince millennials to move their money from megabanks. 

Findings so far

ICBA ran a pilot campaign to test its messaging and creative assets to reinforce the efficacy of a campaign by ensuring such messaging could, in fact, increase the awareness and perception of community banking. The pilot found:

  • The understanding of the term “community banks” in participants went from 65% to 79% after the pilot

  • Positive attitudes for community banks increased from 65% to 75%

  •  After seeing the campaign elements, 75% of non-customers expressed interest in learning about locally owned community banks in their area

“Millennials are in that stage of their life where they’re making a lot of important decisions around finances, setting up retirement plans, buying life insurance, buying a home, buying a car and saving for college,” says Sarah Getzlaff, ICBA treasurer and CEO of $240 million-asset Security First Bank of North Dakota in Bismarck, N.D. “All of the things that we can provide are things that they are searching for.”

The big picture

ICBA’s leadership identified this consumer-facing campaign as an expansion of its mission to create and promote an environment where community banks flourish, ensuring the continued success of the community banking industry.

“The goal of this campaign is to tell the story of community banks, but also elevate consumer awareness and appreciation of what community banks do,” says White. “If community banks across the country can spread the word about [their efforts] and get more people to understand the benefit of doing business with their community banks, then community banks are going to flourish even more than they are today.”

Birgfeld agrees. “The key differentiators of community banks are what sets them apart from other financial institutions,” he says. “Consumers need to be educated so they understand there is a choice to be made—and this is our opportunity.” 

What’s included in the National Campaign Toolkit?

ICBA member community banks will receive marketing and communication supplements including:

  • Campaign research learnings

  • Advertising

  • Public relations content

  • And more to come!