Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X is infamously depicted as a bridge between Baby Boomers and Millenials. Today, they're busy-bees, juggling home-ownership, childcare and careers that are in their peak.
Gen X are decision-makers and entrepreneurs who entered the job market during the dot-com boom. They've witnessed some of the most important political events of our time. Including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the collapse of Communism, and the end of the apartheid in South Africa.
And yet, Generation X is, for the large part, criminally underlooked by marketers.
In the past marketers have been fixated on the generations on either side of them, Baby Boomers and Millenials. In more recent times they've been ignored for the sake of resonating more with Millenials and Generation Z. This could be because Gen X has always tended to be a minority generation. Outnumbered by Baby Boomers in their infancy, then by Millenials and now dwarfed by Gen Z. Today, Generation X accounts for just under 20% of the global population.
It's also a common misconception that Gen X have become shrewd spenders, forever careful with their money. Particularly after the recession where many of Gen X's population were entering the peak of their careers.
But this could not be further from the truth. While the recession has taught Gen X to budget more effectively, they are a generation with huge spending power. They spend significantly more than any other generation, make more impulse purchases and many of them directly contribute to monetary decisions for younger generations which they support.
Marketing to Gen X is significantly easier than it is to market to other generations. Primarily because we refer to Gen X as being a hybrid generation. They are digitally and socially savvy, but also appreciate the value of traditional media.
Companies have been experimenting with several new ways to communicate with their customers. From text messages and social media to newer technologies like chatbots, such as those seen on Facebook Messenger.
For the most part, though, these new methods of communication don't cut it for Gen Xers who still prefer e-mail as a means of receiving B2C communications. This makes sense, though.
Gen X was there when e-mail was created, they've grown up keeping up with their e-mails. This is in stark contrast to younger generations, such as myself, who's inbox is currently plagued with over 6,000 notifications.
In more recent times, with the advent of smartphones becoming an essential part of our daily lives, Gen X is perpetually plugged into their inbox like never before. Whether it is at work or home, on smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, PC or desktop. 92% of Gen X report checking their inbox regularly, more than any other generation.
With this in mind, e-mail marketing should be at the forefront of your thoughts when it comes to targetting Generation X.
Coupons, coupon codes, loyalty programs and sales are all great ways to draw their attention. Forbes report that 88% of Gen Xers join loyalty programs to save money while 71% love receiving loyalty discounts. 68% also used coupons send to their inbox.
While coupons, sales and deals are not new marketing practices, Gen X is a far cry from the coupon clipping generations that came before. Instead, they're more likely to scour the internet to find the best deals.
One factor we may attribute to Gen Xers love of deals is the Great Recession. The recession hit Generation X hard, with many of them entering the peak of their careers. It led Gen X to change their spending habits, leading them to always eeking out the best possible deal, this is where brands have capitalised on money-saving incentives.
Due to Gen X's love of a good deal, we have seen the birth of businesses which are geared directly towards the money-saving Gen Xer. One such business is Groupon. Gen X use businesses such as Groupon to look for deals and experiences at a discounted price. The marketplace allows them to receive a discount on things they already love or branch out to try something new for a low price.
The hybrid generation
Generation X is referred to as a middle child, and for good reason. They grew up in an age of shopping centres, however, upon reaching adulthood they experienced the birth of digital.
Today, they still enjoy visiting brick-and-mortar stores while also making more unplanned in-store purchases than any other generation. They've also embraced online shopping having watched it evolve from its infancy into the money-spinner it is today.
Examining how Generation X respond to different methods of marketing serves as further proof to them being a hybrid generation. While they have been quick to adopt social media platforms and the internet, traditional media still plays a big part in their lifestyle. 48% still listen to the radio, 62% still read newspapers, and 40% watch 3-5 hours of TV per day.
We also see a mix in how Gen X makes purchase decisions as they tend to trust recommendations from family and friends and TV ads as well as online reviews and direct mail messages.
The MTV Generation
Gen Z fondly referred to as the MTV generation, watch more television than anyone else. However, their viewing habits have been changing in the last five years or so. They watch upwards of 32 hours of TV per week and 61% still prefer live-tv over streaming services such as Netflix. However, this number has been in decline during recent years.
Gen X is showing an increasing interest in streaming services and this interest is being driven by exclusive shows, time-shifting, binge-watching and being able to avoid commercials.
This isn't to say that the MTV generation is unmoved by marketing efforts in TV ads. Nielsen reports Gen X as being drawn to TV advertisements that depict everyday life and real-world situations, while women, in particular, are drawn to sentimental ads that focus on family life. More generally, nostalgic commercials tend to bring Gen X back to their childhood which may, in turn, increase their desire to purchase from you.
Ads that fuel appeal to the consumer's heart rather than their head tends to be more successful, you can leverage this by calling upon the great power of nostalgia.
No generation is as prone to nostalgic targetting than Gen X and major brands have furiously latched on to Gen X's love of nostalgia as a result. Think endless Star Wars movies, remakes of Jumanji, Ghostbusters and an endless barrage of live-action Disney films.
In advertising, we use the feeling of nostalgia to create a degree of trust with the consumer by associating your brand with individuals' memories while the product itself is cathartic to the sadness nostalgia is also tinged with.
What's more, a study by the journal of consumer trends finds that people tend to spend more money when they're feeling nostalgic, adopted in a sincere, powerful way, you can take that nostalgia all the way to the bank.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Generation X is less prone than those around then to respond to the waves of trends, instead, they tend to like buying products if they know that it's going to have a positive impact on society or the environment in some way. Consequentially, when brands display some kind of social or environmental do-good initiative, Generation X takes notice and is more likely to buy from that brand than they would from competitors without such an initiative.
Gen X likes purchasing products that are ethically made, fairtrade, or environmentally safe and sustainable.
There is a huge opportunity for marketing to Generation X, they are a generation commonly misunderstood and misrepresented which has led to some degree of resentment with 54% of Gen X feeling overlooked by brands and marketers. Now in the peak of their careers, they occupy several senior positions and have money to burn while also holding great power over the purchasing decisions of generations around them.