Generation X: The Small But Financially Powerful Generation

Gen X
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Date
Sep 2015

With all this hype about Baby Boomers and Millennials, marketers have virtually forgotten about a generation that should not be overlooked: Generation X. Born between 1960 and 1980 – now ages 35 to 55-years-old – few marketers seem to be focusing on the demands and needs of this profoundly influential generation. And the fact of the matter is, marketers should not be. Despite their small numbers, the influence of Gen X is unquestionably mighty. Gen Xer’s connection toward generations before and after (the infamous Millennials and Boomers), as well as their technological savviness and brand loyalty make them an exceptionally unique consumer base. And because of this heavy influence, Gen Xers also have enormous buying potential, particularly when it comes to the Boomers and Millennials. In fact, according to American Express, Gen X has more spending power than any other generation, with 29% of estimated net worth dollars and 31% of total income dollars. This presents a virtual goldmine for marketers – one that many have yet to tap.

As the bridge between Boomers and Millennials, Gen Xers have more influence than marketers even realize, particularly if they are financially supporting both aging parents as well as young adults. According to Pew Research Center, nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. Additionally, Gen Xers are on the brink of taking over companies and politics from the Boomers, meaning they hold an enormous amount of influence both at home and in the workplace. With those dynamics in mind, marketers should take note. From digital devices to clothing brands, and retirement homes to healthcare options, it is Generation X who holds the majority decision-making power over many individuals in the Boomer and Millennial generations. Now might be a good time to rethink those marketing strategies.

But before you do, here’s another factor to take into consideration: Gen Xers are, in fact, digitally-savvy, despite what many marketers may think. In fact, Millward Brown Digital, surveyed more than 1,000 consumers in three generations (Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) to see how different age groups favored digital screens for various activities. Surprisingly, the organization reported that 60% of Gen Xers use a smartphone on a daily basis, while 67% use a laptop/PC daily – which surpassed the 58% of Millennials who use laptops/PCs daily. Gen Xers frequently go online for activities like shopping, banking, researching products, finding the best deals, and/or reading the news. Based on those attitudes toward digital, there is an enormous opportunity here for marketers – with the right strategy.

That being said, the right strategy starts with understanding the influence and attitudes of this generation. From there, you can formulate a successful campaign targeted to reach this once forgotten audience. Here are a few guidelines to help get you started:

OFFER AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE

More than any other generation, Gen X likes to research while shopping online. They read more reviews and visit more opinion sites than any other generation. Most won’t even buy a product until they’ve thoroughly researched it, whether through online reviews or opinions on social media sites. In fact, according to eMarketer, 75% of U.S. Gen X internet users logged on to social networks at least once a month in 2013. Biggest takeaway here? Offer a clear explanation of your product or service and its benefits. Make it vastly visible online utilizing search engine optimization, social media, and/or review sites. Let Gen Xers know exactly what to expect from your brand and how it could benefit them.

KNOW THE SCREENS THEY ARE USING AND WHEN

It’s important to know why Gen X uses laptops and smartphones in order to allocate resources efficiently across the path-to-purchase. This is key in reaching this audience at the right time with the right message. Gen Xers use multiple screens, but the type of screen they use depends on the task they are doing. For instance, Millward Brown Digital notes that for high-attention/high-complexity tasks like reading the news or researching information on health concerns, Gen Xers prefer laptops. However, they will default to smartphones for light-touch/high frequency activities, like checking the weather. Additionally, they prefer laptops to shop for products/services in all industries studied, although smartphones are gaining traction in some categories, like CPG and Consumer Electronics. Here’s a crucial takeaway: for a more targeted ad campaign, ensure you are displaying across the most relevant channel.

CONSIDER THEIR VALUES

Generation X values sincerity, authenticity, and independence – especially when it comes to advertising. They approve of companies that acknowledge that every consumer is different and they do not respond well to a generic marketing approach. In fact, Gen Xers want retailers to provide a personalized brand experience. November 2014 research by IPG Media Lab and Yahoo found that personalized ads boosted brand favorability and purchase intent among all internet users – most notably, the Gen Xers. Evade tricks when targeting Gen X and ensure your marketing messages are clear, straightforward, and truthful. Personalize the brand experience by relating to Gen Xer’s families, health, and their desire to play it safe in all aspects of life. Final takeaway? Build a relationship with Gen Xers by consistently offering high-quality products as well as targeted, unique messaging. By doing so, you might have a loyal customer for life – eMarketer revealed that four out of 10 consumers in this group stick to brands they like.

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