The goal of many marketers today is clear: Do anything and everything to attract the attention of Millennials. After all, there are more than 83.1 million Millennials in the US, more than a quarter of its population.
Moreover, Millennials have a collective $200 billion to spend in 2016. Tapping into the largest generation to date and creating a loyal army to evangelize your brand should always be a primary marketing objective, right?
Not so fast!
Though focusing on Millennials is important, many businesses have done so at the expense of Generation X—people with birthdates between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. Sandwiched between the well-established Baby Boomers and the popular Millennials, Generation X-ers are like forgotten middle children.
But brands willing to invest in this key customer base will discover that Generation X-ers are decision-makers at work and home.
What makes Gen X so valuable?
Though this key demographic doesn't have as many members as the Millennial generation does, Gen X has more spending power than Millennials.
Generation X-ers make up just a quarter of adults, but they account for 29% of estimated net-worth dollars in the US and hold 31% of total income dollars, according to a 2014 Shullman Research Center report.
Millennials make up nearly 30% of total adults, but they account for 21% of net-worth dollars and 18% of total income dollars.
Despite those numbers, Gen X-ers are often overlooked in favor of their younger (and more impressionable) counterparts.
A brand that can successfully connect with Gen X and tap into it in a meaningful way can gain a lot financially.
Before you make any substantial shift in your marketing strategy, however, ask yourself these key questions.
- Will my product or service appeal to Gen X? You shouldn't haphazardly target this group without conducting an analysis. For example, know the range of ages... The youngest Gen X-er will be in his or her 30s, but people on the higher end of the spectrum are around 50.
Millennials may seem to have technology running through their veins, but Gen X-ers are tech-savvy, too. A total of 77% of Millennials use smartphones every day, and Gen X-ers aren't far behind at 60%, according to a 2015 study by Millward Brown Digital. Also, 67% of Gen X-ers use a laptop or PC every day, but just 58% of Millennials do.
- Do your brand values align with Gen X? Individuals aren't beholden to the generalizations associated with their cohorts, so it's important to consult the facts.
For example, a Gen X-er is statistically more likely to be conservative than liberal, according to Pew Research Center. Generation X also holds family values in high regard, as a huge number of them are raising children.
Appealing to Gen X
Once you've decided that Gen X is a valuable customer segment for your company, gear your advertising strategies to tap into its unique traits, including:
- Sentimentality. Gen X-ers value family. They're hardworking people trying to provide for those closest to them. Tailoring your marketing message to support their efforts is a smart approach.
Gen X-ers are also incredibly sentimental about their youth. Use your resources to focus on nostalgia triggers both big and small. Though Millennials are looking forward, Gen X-ers are looking back—so be there to greet them. (Cue the Simple Minds music.)
- Studiousness. Individuals in Generation X are well-educated and well-employed. Some 20% of Gen X women and 18% of Gen X men hold a bachelor's degree, according to 2015 Pew Research Center data.
Though Millennials are earning more college degrees, they aren't as well-employed as Gen X-ers. Some 69% of Gen X women are employed (compared with 63% of Millennial women), and 78% of Gen X men are employed (compared with 68% of Millennial men). Last year, TIME magazine reported that 68% of Inc. 500 CEOs are in Generation X.
- Practicality. Though Millennials are known for spending, Gen X-ers are sensible shoppers. Not only were many raised in single-parent homes, but they also lived through the economic decline of the 1980s. As a result, they can be suspicious of corporate authority and the unpredictable nature of the stock market. They're less likely to splurge on extravagant purchases and more likely to invest in practical items with quantifiable value.
For example, one study from TrueCar found that Gen X-ers prefer "practical luxury and safety features for their families." Highlight your product or service's competitive price points, utilitarian nature, and safety features in your marketing materials to appeal to this side of Gen X-ers.
Marketers who recognize the value of Generation X and make meaningful connections with it will reap the benefits from this small but mighty generation.