Now, full disclosure here: I’m not particularly fond of labels, but as classifications go, I’m a Gen-Xer and I’m also a marketing professional. In fact, one of my former co-workers 20 years ago used to lovingly call me Jen-X.
If you know “us” as a generation at all, this is not a piece about being left out or saying “look at me.” As a marketer, I’ve noticed that we are, for the most part, leaving an entire generation out of the discussion—which is interesting since Gen-Xers are in a position to truly shape the marketing landscape.
Let’s start with a couple of facts. This overlooked generation generates 31% of the total US income and outspends all other generations when it comes to housing, clothing, eating out, and entertainment—and that’s just the beginning.
Gen X possesses the best marketing characteristics of both Boomers and Millennials. They’re social-savvy—81% have Facebook accounts—and still understand the value of traditional media.
Best of all? Gen X is quick to adopt new technologies. They did create the Internet after all ... or at least shaped it into what it has become today. (You remember that debate, don’t you?)
In spite of these desirable consumer behaviors, Gen X isn’t feeling the love; 54% are frustrated that brands constantly ignore them. This oversight is a mistake, as Gen X provides ample value as both consumers and marketers.
As consumers adopt multigenerational interests, this powerful demographic holds the key to marketing’s next iteration. As the only working generation to remember marketing before technology, Gen X marketers are essential to ensure brands retain a sense of humanity.
Here’s why the Brat Pack generation is invaluable—and unforgettable.
Consider The New Age Consumer
The mother and daughter sharing makeup and clothes. The 40-something fashion blogger, admired by her Millennial followers. The ’80s pop star Instagramming her favorite pair of jeans.
On paper, Millennial and Gen X demographics seem like stark contrasts, but as interests in brands begin to transcend generations and technology further connects us to shared information, the marketing lines are beginning to blur.
With today’s access to information and timely trends, “50 is the new 30” stretches beyond a mindset. Gen X has made it clear that they’re not ready to become their parents or grandparents, with an interest in societal trends and a thirst for technology. This mindset shift is heralding a new era of marketing.
To appease the modern consumer and leverage the impact Gen X has to offer, brands need to take a multigenerational approach, devising strategies that extend past generational silos. Such an investment is valuable. After all, Gen X is predicted to double their share of national wealth by 2030, further solidifying them as a valuable consumer segment.
As the above scenarios grow increasingly common, brands have caught on and are using older models to tap into the Gen X market. In recent years, Madonna, 59, has loaned her talents to Versace; Julia Roberts, 49, has served as the face of Givenchy beauty and was named People's most beautiful woman in the world (for the fifth time); and Brooke Shields, 52, has showcased her Calvins once again.
Meanwhile, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign continues to be an industry trailblazer, embracing women of all ages for over a decade. While showcasing women of all ages is a good first step, marketers should also finesse how they speak to Gen X across channels.
Gen-Xers are often first adopters of technology (or close seconds following their digital native kids) and are more addicted to social media than Millennials, so brands need to tailor engagement strategies to pique the interests of this hungry demographic.
Keeping The Humanity In Tech
Just as Gen X shouldn’t be counted out as a consumer, their perspective as marketers should be considered as well. Not only has Gen X played a crucial role in developing emerging technologies, they’re the only working generation to remember the marketing world prior to the digital revolution.
As the makers and marketers of these innovations, Gen X can bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds to ensure we’re using technology responsibly.
By 2020, 50% of all online searches will be conducted by voice. As this shift happens, we need to be conscious of not losing our humanity—even if it means using manners when conversing with AI.
A few weekends ago, I asked my kindergartener what he wanted for lunch. He believes our Google Home is a person, so he turned to it and repeated the question. Without skipping a beat, Google replied, “Thanks, I’m not hungry right now, but if you’d like local restaurants or recipes, I’m happy to help.”
I recently read an article saying if we don’t teach our kids to say “please” and “thank you” to Alexa, we’re in deep trouble. Now my son says, “Alexa, turn on the master bedroom lights, please.”
As early adopters and innovators of tech, Gen-X marketers can help strike a proper balance as tech natives come of age and we drift closer to an on-demand society needing a human touch and seamlessly fitting into peoples’ lives.
The Legacy Of Gen X
As digital marketing enters its next iteration and consumer preferences continue to evolve, there’s already a lot of discussion around how Millennials and Gen Z will be serviced. Gen-Xers are poised to answer the call; we’re raising the next generation, and we understand the behaviors of our generation, and theirs.
While it’s tempting to predict future trends and engagement strategies, it’s in marketers’ best interest to fully understand and appreciate the influential demographics that are already of age.
Although they’re often in the shadows of their parents’ and children’s generations, Gen X has emerged as a powerful segment for brands to target. From their evolving interests and the increasing agelessness among consumers to the importance of human-centric engagements in a tech-driven world, Gen-Xers are a salient test case for the future of marketing and an invaluable segment for brands to embrace.
After all, my name is Jennifer Gray, and nobody puts baby in a corner.