Why Marketers Shouldn’t Ignore Generation X Any Longer
By Kelly Cane, Certified Gen Xer
Generation X may be small, but we are a mighty generation that marketers often overlook. Described by The Huffington Post as the Jan Brady of generations (and if you don’t know who Jan Brady is, you’re probably not a Gen Xer), it’s this middle child of generations that now – finally – deserves to be heard.
Sandwiched between the much larger segments of Baby Boomers and Millennials, Generation X makes up all 40-55 year olds, equalling 65 million wage earners at the peak of their careers. Characterized as slackers, alienated, cynical, and apathetic in their youth, this cohort now holds one of the largest portions of purchasing power in the US. Ignoring us means ignoring a demographic that has impressive influence over both household and company decisions.
What should marketers know about Generation X? First of all, it’s important to understand that we serve as the technological conduit between Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We’re old school and new school. We were also the first generation to grow up with both parents working, and as a result, we’re incredibly independent. Known as latchkey kids, we came home to an empty house and learned to entertain ourselves. Yes, 2020 was our year!
We also came of age during a time when societal norms took a pivotal change. This, and our own life experiences, shaped our values, buying habits, and the way in which we perceive marketing.
Gen Xers are family-oriented, financially responsible, self-reliant, and resourceful. We’re business owners, entrepreneurs, and senior management professionals. We’re taking care of our children and our aging parents. We care about the environment and love our country.
Read on for more Gen X marketing goodness.
We Care about Security.
Most Gen Xers have started families, and our children are likely in school or graduating from college at this point in our lives. Making smart decisions for our family’s safety and financial future is very important to us. We also hold strong family values. To more easily connect with this generation, make it a priority to show us you can be trusted, and provide a reliable product or service to build relationships and referrals.
We’ve Seen A lot.
As a whole generation, Gen X has been through the moon landing, the Cold War, the internet revolution, the Y2K crisis, 911, and everything in between. We have seen a lot of ads and have been the target of a lot of marketing, which means having an authentic message throughout your marketing is very important.
We Use the Internet to Research Businesses.
Generation Xers tend to research businesses on the internet even after seeing a TV commercial or newspaper ad. You’ll want to make sure your company information and messaging are consistent across all directories, social platforms, and, most importantly, your own website.
We Prefer Marketing that is More Personal and Authentic.
Most Gen Xers are now parents and prefer to consume media that reflects their values. We also prefer brands who are authentic. Be transparent and don’t hide agendas or values from this generation — we will see right through it. Try to be forward with your intentions, no “smoke and mirrors.”
We Are the Greatest Entrepreneurial Generation in US history.
Individualism is a defining trait of Gen Xers. This individualism is credited for the record number of Gen X entrepreneurs whose contributions to society include Google, Wikipedia, Amazon.com, and YouTube. Gen Xers high-tech savvy and marketplace resilience have helped America prosper in the era of globalization.
We are Small Business Owners and Senior Management.
Gen Xers dominate the playing field with respect to founding startups in the United States and Canada, with Xers launching the majority (55%) of all new businesses in 2015. We are also taking over corporate senior management positions from Boomers.
We are Patriotic.
Gen Xers were the major heroes of 911. Most firefighters and police responding were primarily Gen X as were the leaders of the passenger revolt on United Airlines Flight 93. Gen Xers came out in big numbers to donate blood, money, volunteer, and join the military (despite their age) to fight the War on Terror. Using a patriotic tone may connect with this generation, although they are quieter and more humble than their previous generations.
We are Resourceful.
Research shows most Gen Xers describe themselves as “happy” as well as resourceful, independent, savvy, adaptable, pragmatic, and skeptical. Give Gen Xers the facts and let them decide if they need / want your service or product. Reviews and testimonials are valuable tools for this group, as well as a robust About page on your website. We love research.
Generation X By the Numbers
- 65 million adults are considered Generation X.
- Gen X was born between 1965 and 1980.
- Generation X currently makes up 31% of the total U.S. income.
- 35% of Xers in the U.S. have college degrees, compared to only 19% of Millennials. This means that they tend to hold more powerful positions in organizations.
- 58.2 million Gen Xers use the internet everyday, but they are the hardest generation to pin down.
- Gen X loves social media — 95% of them use Facebook.
- 72% of Gen Xers use the internet to research businesses. Make sure your business listings and website are up to date.
- A pleasurable user / shopping experience on your website is key (chat, search, testimonials)
- Use traditional media to your advantage with Gen Xers — 48% listen to the radio, 62% still read newspapers and 85% watch traditional television.
- Direct Mail is still effective for Gen X.
- They check email regularly, so don’t forget email marketing!
- Gen X loves videos, use across all media.
- Keep device usage in mind when marketing to Gen X — they spend more time per week on all devices than Millennials do: 21 hours on smartphones, 9 hours on PCs, and 4 hours on tablets.
- Acknowledge this generation in your marketing — 54% of Gen Xers are frustrated that brands constantly ignore them.
- Will develop brand loyalty and spend more on brands that contribute to social causes.