Generational Marketing: Gen X

Generational Marketing is a series on working with and marketing to the five primary generations in the US population: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.You would think that being part of a group more than 80 million people strong would equate to marketing power and influence, right? But when it comes to Generation X, the answer has been a big, fat no.Squeezed out by the boomers before them and the Millennials after them, Gen Xers have become a lost generation to many marketers who have spent their time and money courting Xers' bigger, better-known bookends. But counting this generation of mostly 35- to 55-year-olds out of the marketing mix is a huge mistake.

About Gen XAccording to a recent study, Gen X has more spending power than any other generation. It holds 29 percent of estimated net worth dollars and 31 percent of total income dollars. As boomers retire and Millennials still try to get their footing in the work world, Gen Xers are beginning to peak in their careers and earning potential.

But marketing to this generation isn't as easy as signing up Xer sweetheart Molly Ringwald as a spokesperson or putting Depeche Mode songs in all your ads. To be successful, marketers need to better understand this small generational group that's growing in influence.

Working with Gen XThough labeled the "slacker" generation, Xers have proven to be anything but. Recent Yahoo Advertising research found that more than 25 percent of Gen Xers have started their own business and that they represent 55 percent of startup founders.

Gen Xers value hard work, independence and flexibility in the workplace and strive to have work-life balance. As managers, Xers can be a bit hands-off and less effusive with praise for employees (sorry, special snowflakes). However, when an Xer boss does acknowledge your work, it's probably pretty awesome.

A quote in AdWeek from Deb Freeman, a chief strategy officer at advertising firm FCD, perfectly captures my thoughts and feelings about being a Gen Xer:

"I'm a proud, card-carrying Gen Xer. We were the crossroads generation and we had to absorb so much change - everything from growing up with technology to having no job security. We've been at the forefront of all that and we're stronger."

Marketing to Gen XWhen it comes to purchasing, the motivations of this generation can be hard to pin down, but there are a few key takeaways to keep in mind when marketing to Gen X.

  • They Get and Love TechThough Gen Xers remember life before the Internet, most of them have grown up in a world where tech has become increasingly important and more personal. According to the Yahoo study, nearly 80 percent of Gen Xers use smartphones, a number expected to grow to 88 percent by 2018. They're also interested in wearable tech, particularly gadgets that can help them be physically and mentally fit.
  • They Straddle Digital and Analog WorldsEven though they're comfortable with tech and typically switch between two devices during prime-time evening hours, they still consume content via old school channels - the radio, newspapers and TV. For marketers, this means an all-of-the-above strategy is best.
  • They're Brand LoyalistsNearly 50% of Gen X internet users report being loyal to favorite brands, according to eMarketer. This means that if you can hook an Xer, you could very well have a customer for life. But, if quality and customer service aren't up to snuff, you could easily lose them.
  • They do Their ResearchGen Xers are regular online shoppers and they're likely to do a lot of research before making a purchase. Product and service reviews hold sway with them, as do website ratings. Marketers with good word of mouth and reviews are well positioned to pursue Xers.
  • They Value Sincerity and DiversityMany Gen Xers grew up glued to a TV set and are advertising savvy. They don't take kindly to marketers who don't seem sincere or trustworthy. They are also attracted to brands that reflect society and their values of gender, racial and cultural diversity.

Stay tuned for the next blog in our generational marketing series - Millennials and Generation Z (yes, that's a thing now). 

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