Marketing to Generation X

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Who is generation X, and how can my brand authentically connect with them?

 


Members of generation X (often defined as people born between 1965 and 1980) are regularly overlooked by marketers. While they don't have as much disposable income as baby boomers, they nevertheless have considerable purchasing power, especially when it comes to millennials and gen Z. 

Unlike younger generations, gen Xers are largely defined by the fact that they grew up in a pre-digital world. Because of this, how to engage with them will look significantly different than for people born with access to tablets and smartphones, with endless information at their fingertips. Messaging, and where that messaging appears, is crucial.

That being said, gen Xers are comfortable with navigating the internet and prefer to have more balance when it comes to online interactions. In short, they are neither "old millennials" nor "bitty-baby boomers"; they are a distinct segment that deserves its own tailored messaging.

It's important to note that gen X came of age amid challenging economic circumstances (such as the 2008/2009 financial crisis) or other crises (such as 9/11). As a result, gen X tends to be realistic, pragmatic, and a bit cynical. In the same way COVID-19 has shaped younger generations, those crises shaped gen X. Diane Clifford, managing director of constituency development at Share Our Strength, told ANA about how gen Xers are a huge part of multichannel success, stating:

"Gen Xers are why we're succeeding with multichannel strategies," Clifford says. "They are comfortable in the digital space, especially on YouTube and Facebook, but they still read newspapers, watch TV, and read their mail. They are brand loyal and believe change can happen in the world and they show that through their affinity for monthly giving."

The following resources provide insight on how marketers can better appeal to gen X. Check out how to market to gen Z here.


Resources

  • Gen X Truly Is the Lost Generation — Especially in Marketing. Adweek, May 2022.
    "While it makes sense for some brands to devote the bulk of their attention on younger generations, isolating older folks from their marketing narratives is a missed opportunity to build both community and revenue. Generation X is one of those aging generations that seem to get lost in the mix. But it's one that has straddled analog and digital worlds and now holds a hefty helping of the buying power that younger generations don't yet have."

    Other takeaways:

    • "When it comes to marketing, gen Xers wants to see real people with real flaws — especially when overcoming taboos," said [Chelsey Weiss, vice president and group account director at independent agency Barker], who added that the IBS information campaign "Bathroom Route" went beyond sympathy for a physical ailment by highlighting consumers' inner monologue — breaking down the stigma associated with a potentially embarrassing issue on a real level.
    • Nostalgia is always something advertisers can depend on to get any generation to react, so those who mine the '80s and '90s to smartly sell products can reap the benefits. Think bringing back Crystal Pepsi, reuniting Wayne and Garth for Uber Eats and referencing Ferris Bueller's Day Off for LiftMaster.

  • Essentials of Gen X Consumers. Collage Group, May 2021.
    Collage Group's Essentials of gen X consumers presentation explores three areas of their consumer fundamentals research: demographics and economic opportunity, identity related marketing expectations, and cultural traits.

    Key takeaways:

    • Gen X are less diverse than millennials and gen Z, but they're significantly more diverse than the Baby Boomer cohort.
    • Despite being the smallest generation by population size, in 2019 gen X was both the highest-earning and highest-spending generation of them all.
    • Gen Xers are most likely to go out of their way to support brands that are inclusive of people with physical disabilities, perhaps because they came of age during the fight for disability rights and the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
    • As a smaller generation positioned between two larger cohorts, gen X often finds themselves bridging gaps in society.
    • Brands can better connect with gen X by leveraging the cohort's Cultural Traits. Four important traits are: Self-Reliance, Enterprising, Optimism, and Traditional.
  • Three Tips for Marketing to Generation X. Forbes, May 2021.
    Generation X may be small, but they are a mighty generation that marketers often overlook. Gen X is sandwiched between the much larger segments of baby boomers and millennials and crafting your campaigns with this market in mind has its advantages.

    This article offers three things to keep in mind when marketing to gen X:
    • Find gen X where they live online
    • Don't neglect traditional advertising
    • Offer rewards and loyalty programs
  • Gen Xers Turn to Search for Product Research, Brand Discovery. Marketing Charts, March 2021.
    At a time when brand and product information can be found through an array of channels, gen X consumers lean towards discovering and researching new brands through search. This is according to a report from GlobalWebIndex (GWI) which looked at the digital behaviors of gen Xers. The global survey of close to 60,000 gen X (ages 38 to 56) internet users found that 36 percent of these consumers use search engines as a method to discover new brands. Search engines edged out ads seen on TV, used by 35 percent of respondents. And, as proof that word-of-mouth is still effective, one-third (32 percent) discover new brands through word-of-mouth recommendations.



  • X Factor. ANA, April 2021.
    At 65.2 million strong, gen Xers in the U.S. love to give to causes that are important to them. This article profiles this segment and discusses reasons why nonprofits would be wise to target what some are calling the next great giving generation. Also see Gen X – The Next Great Giving Generation.



The Marketing Knowledge Center actively connects ANA members to the resources they need to be successful. You can visit the ANA website to engage with the MKC in three ways.

  • Explore content to access best practices, case studies, and marketing tools. Our proprietary content includes Event Recaps, which share actionable insights from conference and committee presentations.
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  • Stay on top of trends with Marketing Futures Pulse issues, which explore how new technologies and innovations will affect marketers and consumers alike. 

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Source

"Marketing to Generation X." ANA, 2022.