Marketing to Generation X: Keeping It Real

April 4, 2016

Marketers have long focused on the Baby Boomer generation, owing to their massive numbers and buying power. Today, marketing efforts are increasingly targeting Millennials, whose numbers and buying power are even larger than the Baby Boomers. Overlooking the generation that came between, however, can be a critical mistake. What many don’t realize is that the buying power of Generation X vastly outweighs its smaller numbers.

In the 1990s, Gen X was largely written off as a bunch of “why me slackers.” But as this generation has aged, it has developed into a non-traditional consumer segment to which marketers should pay heed.

Born between roughly 1965 and 1977, members of Generation X are now in a high-earning, high-spending phase of life. The youngest are raising children, while the oldest are looking toward an empty nest as their children head off to college. And while they make up only 25 percent of the total U.S. population, Gen X makes up 31 percent of total spending.

Gen X grew up during a transitional time in our society. As latch-key kids, they were raised amid rising divorce rates and violence. According to an article in the Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, they were forced to take responsibility for raising themselves, so they are less tradition-bound than any other generation. Most are highly educated, and they are skeptical of anything approaching conventionality or slick advertising. Thus, different marketing tactics are required to reach and persuade them.

For example, Gen Xers want to know the features of products and services, why those features are necessary and how those features will help them live a better life. This is because, more than any other generation, Gen X works to live, rather than lives to work.

So how can you win with this market?

Gen Xers typically have two main drivers: A desire to provide for their families and a desire to take care of themselves. And these two drivers are inextricably linked to their desire for whatever they buy to reflect their strong values. So linking your product or service as a value proposition will resonate with them.

The most important point for marketing to Gen X is understanding that this is the first generation to grow up with television, so they have been immersed in advertising and marketing almost from birth and are thus inherently aware of when they’re being marketed to and distrustful of any who try. Honesty and authenticity will go a long way with this demographic of our society.

What advertising tactics have you incorporated into your plan in order to capture the Gen X audience?