Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980 – now 36-51 years old) represents an estimated population of 66 million people or 25% of the U.S. population. Until very recently Gen Xers had been largely overlooked by marketers in favor of trendy Millennials and even trendier Generation Z. But as much as these younger demographic groups are important and valuable segments to marketers, Generation X’s appeal has dramatically risen in recent years, primarily thanks to their growing influence… and wallets. If you are looking for Generation X marketing strategies to engage with this segment, here are some key facts and insights to keep in mind.
Gen X Wields High Spending Power
Generation X may be smaller in population than the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, but research from American Express revealed that Xers actually have more spending power than any other generation. They currently make more money than the average Millennial, by virtue of being older and farther along in their careers and pay scale. Yet, they also have major financial commitments including paying for college, home ownership, starting a business, and saving for retirement— which means this generation is made up of value-driven, practical budgeters.
The below video from Goldman Sachs further summarizes the economic priorities of Generation X and how marketers can appeal to their financial sensibilities.
Family Matters to Gen X
The majority of Gen X members are married with an average of 2.5 children per household. The largest age group for children is age 12 or older. 10% of Gen X parents are also grandparents, with some grandchildren even sharing their home. To tap into Gen X’s family-driven motivations, marketing messages should relate to family life and especially appeal to their sense of pride in their children.
In terms of diversity, Gen X is less diverse than Millennials, but more diverse than Boomers, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s important not to alienate any ethnicity or race by being inclusive of a total market approach in your Generation X marketing strategy.
A Digital/Analog Marketing Mix (Tape)
They may have grown up without the Internet, but Gen Xers have quickly adapted to a digital lifestyle, with a high penetration of smartphone, tablet, computer, and Internet-connected TV usage. According to AARP, at least one in four Gen Xers claim to be the first among their friends to try new technologies, making these early adopters prime targets for technology and entertainment marketers. Popular online activities among Gen X include Social Networking (mostly via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), Banking, Shopping, and Online Gaming.
Advertisers can reach Gen X online via targeted programmatic online advertising, email marketing with personalized offers, consumer review sites like Yelp, Amazon.com, and Consumer Reports, and through social media.
As much as digital advertising is a significant channel to reach Gen X, traditional media still plays a large part in the Gen X lifestyle. According to AdWeek, 48% of Gen Xers listen to the radio and 62% still read newspapers. In another study via MarketingCharts.com, it was shown that Gen X’s purchase decisions are most influenced by family/friend recommendations, TV ads, email, online reviews and even direct mail. Even digital powerhouses like Amazon.com, Jet.com, and Shutterfly.com have taken to direct mail to effectively reach Generation X.
Gen X Watches a Ton of TV
According to Nielsen data, Gen X (a.k.a.“MTV Generation”) watches more traditional live TV than Millennials, but it’s declining. Gen X’s weekly traditional TV viewing decreased 1% year-over-year from 2016 to 2015 and showed a 12% decline over the past 5-year period. Yet, Gen X has been shown to watch more live TV, DVR, and VOD than Millennials in a typical month, according to Forrester. In fact, households in which at least one person is a member of Generation X and those with children 17 and under are much more likely to stream video and other over-the-top (OTT) content – mostly Netflix. The popularity of streaming among Gen X coincides with other demographics and is primarily due to high interest in time shifting, binge watching, and avoiding commercials.
Yet in one recent report from TDG Research, 61% of Gen Xers would choose traditional pay TV service over streaming services, if they had to choose just one. This is in almost diametric opposition to the 25-34-year-old cohort and implies that Gen X does still see the value in traditional pay TV services, while also enjoying benefits of streaming. Upcoming and rumored streaming services from AT&T/DirecTV, Hulu, YouTube, and others could tap into this desire by offering a lower-cost OTT streaming service with DVR and live viewing included alongside On Demand streaming.
Nostalgia Marketing: Back to the Future
From music to TV, movies to gaming, major brands have latched on to Generation X’s love for childhood nostalgia in a big way. Some recent examples include the Ghostbusters remake, Star Wars, Garfield, Full House, Transformers, Beavis and Butthead, Pokémon Go, Nintendo’s classic NES reissue, countless comic book movies, Facebook’s On This Day, #ThrowbackThursday, #FlashbackFriday, and so on. A 2014 study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that people spend more money when they’re feeling nostalgic, and marketers are taking this nostalgia to the bank as the below commercials from United Healthcare, McDonalds, and Volkswagen clearly demonstrate.
Over To You
What other traits of Generation X should marketers pay attention to? Can you believe Nirvana’s Nevermind album came out 25 years ago? Has your brand had success reaching Gen X via digital or traditional channels? Is nostalgia being overused by marketers? What movie is the most Gen X – Singles, Reality Bites, Trainspotting, or Wayne’s World? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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