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Don’t Count Out Generation X

April 1, 2016 Gina Gallup

breakfast clubThere is a lot of talk these days about Millennials – for good reason: they are young, ambitious, educated and eager, and there are just a whole lot of them. You also can’t help but hear about Baby Boomers. The “me generation” that grew up to be Yuppies is used to voicing their ideas and opinions, and they made good on their belief that anything is possible.

Marketers and brands cater heavily to these groups. And I get it – they are numerous, and numbers give power. The Baby Boomer and Millennial generations each span about two decades and boast having 77 million people and 83 million people respectively. On the other hand, Generation X only has about 65 million people, in part because our generation spans less time – about 15 years (people born between 1965-1980).

That said, Gen X has more spending power than any other group – with 29% of estimated net worth dollars and 31% of total income dollars. How’s that for the “slacker generation”? Marketers should be lining up at our doors.

Yet, they really aren’t, per CNBC’s analysis of 17,776 earnings transcripts from FactSet. They found the term “Millennials” was used about 620 times in the past year, and Baby Boomers were next, with 180 mentions. Next was Generation Z, which was discussed about 100 times. Yet, Generation X was only mentioned 16 times. 16 times in a year! And that’s among big name brands, including Wendy’s and Chipotle.

If your brand isn’t thinking about how to target Gen X dollars, it should be. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Gen Xers are pragmatic and self-sufficient.

The “latchkey kids” are used to taking care of themselves, and made it through the economic decline of the 80s. That translates to Gen Xers being sensible shoppers. They won’t purchase something until it’s been thoroughly researched, most of which is conducted online. They are also skeptical about marketing tactics and use technology, blogs, social media and friends to educate themselves before purchasing. But when they find a brand they like, they are loyal.

Bottom line: Don’t lie to them, make something seem more than it is or use flashy advertisements to sell. Instead, help them understand what to expect, how to practically use what you’re selling and how it quantifiably benefits them.

Gen Xers are digitally savvy.

We didn’t grow up with smartphones or the level of tech that Millennials are used to. But that’s because our generation helped build those things – and they made them better. Whose generation spawned YouTube and Google? You know it. So Gen Xers gobble up technology that makes their lives easier, and are used to shopping both online and offline.

Help Gen Xers understand what to expect, how to practically use what you’re selling and how it quantifiably benefits them.

It’s also important to think about the devices that Gen X uses, so marketers can understand the best ways to reach them. Per a MillwardBrown Digital study on screen usage, Gen Xers prefer laptops for high-attention, high-complexity tasks, but default to smartphones for light-touch, high-frequency activities. Also, Gen Xers have the largest tablet usage, compared to other generations.

That said, Gen X responds well to conventional avenues too and are used to reading newspapers and magazines, listening to the radio or watching TV.

Bottom line: Don’t just stick with one medium or channel to reach this group and hope it works. Instead, outline your goal and target, and then determine which channel, or combination of channels, to use.

Gen X has a lot of influence.

People in this age group have become or are becoming leaders in companies, communities and politics. In fact, 68% of Inc. 500 CEOs are Gen Xers. That gives them a lot of decision-making power.

Plus, this generation is taking care of both parents and children. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one in seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child, per Pew Research Center.

Bottom line: Don’t assume people in this group are only thinking about themselves. Gen X can have – and want to have – a major impact on business, government and all other generations.

So, don’t count out Generation X. Marketers who are willing to invest in them will yield great rewards. We may be few, but we are mighty!





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