Always eager for the next big thing, media and marketing has become obsessed with the youths. We’re endlessly fascinated with trendsetting millennials, and gen-z, even allowing their influence to retroactively shape the consumer habits of older generations, heaven forbid we don’t appear “on fleek” or whatever they’re saying on TikTok these days. But if advertisers are looking for buried demographic treasure, it’d be wise to say “ok boomer” to the teens and twenty somethings and recognize the often overlooked Generation X.
Born between 1965 and 1981, Gen-X’ers have been called many names, none too flattering. After all, Beck broke into the scene proclaiming “I’m a loser baby” and Nirvana’s biggest record was called _Nevermind_. However wise marketers would be advised to do quite the opposite when considering Gen-X.
Although once derided as slackers, Generation X has come of age. Though numbering only 66 million to Baby Boomers’ 75 million, Gen-X are now entering their best earning years, raking in an average $54,400 annually compared to struggling Millennials pulling in only $34,430. Although representing only 25% of the population, they control an outsized 31% of U.S. income.
Their influence extends beyond their pocketbook too. With more than 56 million Americans now living in multi-generational homes, Generation X are increasingly taking care of not only their twenty and thirty-something children, but also their aging boomer parents.
Sometimes described as the Sandwich Generation, Gen-X are quite literally positioned as a bridge between the old and the young, helming households that cater to both. Having entered the work force before the advent of the internet, the first generation to use email professionally couldn’t benefit from the luxury of tools like Slack and Basecamp. As a result, their interoffice personal and communications skills are naturally honed. This makes Gen-X ideal mentors to upcoming generations, and now as they ascended into the C-suite, taking the lead on corporate planning, Gen-X wield significant influence on industry. In fact, 55% of start-up founders are themselves members of Gen-X.
While not digitally native like Millennials and Gen-Z, Gen-X are adept consumers of digital media, spending on average seven hours a week on social media. Less inclined to social promotion, 81% maintain Facebook accounts and nearly six million have Snapchat, but look to these platforms to stay connected to friends and their kids. But don’t discount traditional media either, as these nostalgic platforms still draw considerable attention from a generation that remembers the advent of the Atari.
When reaching Gen-X, it’s important to avoid the obvious pitfalls. Unlike younger generations, Gen-X tend not to think of themselves as special, with only about 41% even self-identifying as Gen-X at all. The first work hard play hard generation responds to experiential offerings, but is quick to sniff out inauthenticity. The Cola Wars of the 90’s saw both Coke and Pepsi strike out, the former with their intentionally self-deprecating offering OK Cola, an obvious ploy, and the latter with the short lived and shallow Generation Next campaign.
Generation X built a lot of the workflows millennials refined, relying on DIY ethics to get to where they are. With so much on their plates, they respond best to a succinct sales pitch sell that gets to the point and clearly outlines tangible product benefits and results. Eighty percent believe work-life balance is important and 48% fantasize about having a day off. Although they outspend all other generations in housing, clothing, dining, and entertainment, more than half of Gen-X’ers (54 percent) report feeling frustrated that advertisers treat them as an afterthought. With the most disposable income of any demographic, ignore them at your own risk.