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Taking control of one's finances is often seen as an important marker of adulthood and independence. As members of Gen Z reach this important milestone, many are beginning to take this step. But with so many financial decisions to make, and with so many new institutions offering a myriad of financial solutions, how does an established brand cut through the clutter to advise and educate Gen Z -- and in the process, win their loyalty and business?

Our client, a major financial institution, recognized the need to 'speak to' Gen Z consumers in a way that would resonate. They understood that the values, beliefs, and attitudes of this cohort differed greatly from prior generations; however, they lacked a broader understanding of what exactly these values are, both generally and with finances specifically. They approached C+R for help in developing a comprehensive qualitative research program to help them better understand and win with Gen Z.

C+R created an online mobile community that allowed the client to meet Gen Z consumers in a comfortable, fun space. Once the insights had been gleaned, we then led the client through an activation workshop that helped them to create workable strategies for reaching and attracting this cohort through communication, education, and marketing efforts. 


A major financial institution wanted to attract and speak to Gen Z consumers by offering advice and services that cater to their unique needs. To do so, they needed to conduct exploratory research to examine macro forces shaping the cohort's values, attitudes, and behaviors - including those that might influence their future as banking consumers and financial decision makers. 

The overall goal of the research was to inform marketing and communication efforts and to create inspirational, creative materials to educate and guide the Gen Z cohort with their banking needs. Specifically, our client sought to:

  • Build empathy with the Gen Z consumer by understanding their important cultural milestones and attitudes toward these life events;
  • Understand the values and attitudes of Gen Z toward media, brands, and money and finances; and
  • Gain alignment within the organization for how to translate these insights into actionable business opportunities and communication strategies.

As a result of the research program, our client gained a greater understanding of the Gen Z cohort, including their values, how they see the world, and the importance of connection (both with family and via social media). They also learned more about the spending and saving habits of the cohort and what these consumers expect from a financial institution. 

Through an activation workshop, C+R guided our client through understanding these insights and creating several communication and marketing strategies to help them win with this cohort. 


To help our client learn more about the Gen Z cohort and their views on banking and finance, we created a three-stage research program.

First, to kick off the project and ensure all stakeholders were aligned, we led a Gen Z grounding session to discuss what elements were already known. Our client shared learnings from relevant prior research, as well as early hypotheses they hoped to test in the current research. C+R then conducted a "Gen Z 101" presentation to share our knowledge on the thoughts and values of Gen Z, as well as their finances and spending habits. The client and research teams then discussed the knowledge gaps and identified further hypotheses to explore in the research.

In the second stage of research, C+R conducted a digital ethnography by creating an immersive mobile community. The community, which lasted for two weeks, served as a virtual meeting space for participants to answer polls, participate in discussions and Q&As, and to do creative immersion activities, as well as for researchers to follow participants’ social media output. The community was structured to have a fun "house party" vibe to encourage participation. We also selected a subset of the overall sample to participate in 60-minute webcam interviews to dive deeper into topics discussed on the mobile community

In total, 38 teens (aged 14-17) and young adults (aged 18-23) participated in the research. There was a mix of males and females from across the United States. All participants currently had a bank account or were considering opening one in the near future. They all owned smartphones and had active social media accounts. For those participants under 18, a parent also participated (for example, in the webcam interview). 

In the community, we were able to ask participants about their values, social media life, and their financial habits, including their spending and/or saving, their financial goals, bank brands they like, and their ideal banking experience.
The third stage of the research consisted of a strategy activation workshop to help immerse the client team in the research insights and align on the implications for their brand. 

  • Method is Qualitative 
  • Cohort is Youth & Family
  • Business Issue: Understanding the Marketplace
  • Industry is Financial Services
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