The Lost Generation: Marketing to Gen X

Hello, and welcome to Episode 19 of Aftershock Weekly. This week we’re going to talk about how to market to Generation X. Last week we talked about the Millennials, this week I wanted to talk about who I consider The Forgotten Generation. Even though it’s literally right before—they’re the parents of the Millennials—they don’t get talked about. You hear about the Boomers, you hear about the Millennials, but Gen X is right in the middle.

So who are they? They’re born from 1965 to 1982. An easy way to think about it is, do you relate to The Breakfast Club? If you do, you’re probably in the earlier part of the Generation X. Or do you relate with Home Alone? If you do, then you’re probably the later of Generation X. Those are two iconic movies that really kind of sum it up—the independence that they have. Divorce at the time of Generation X was at an exponential high, they were the first ones to have to raise themselves, the latch-key kids, so there was an independence, an un-trusting generation that didn’t think they were going to have jobs take care of them. They saw things like the USSR get split up. They saw a lot of crazy things in history during that time that allowed them not to be a very trusting generation.

A lot of times they’re defined as the “Me” generation. Slackers. When it’s funny, if you really look at it, and their strengths, that’s pretty much exactly the opposite of who they are. But, the Boomers are the ones that called them the trophy kids, when everybody got a trophy, but they were the ones handing them out. So, it’s a crazy generation. And the reason that you should really pay attention to this generation is that they are at the peak of their buying power. They are the generation right now that’s going on vacation, they’re buying cars, they’re buying houses, they’re buying boats, they’re buying subscriptions. They’re the ones that have the money to do things like Amazon Prime right from the beginning. They catch onto things like Groupon and they spend money all the time there. So it’s a very important generation you should really think about when you’re marketing, and what things that they hold true. So let’s talk a little more about that.

So what do they hate? They don’t like being bossed around. They’re that generation that doesn’t like to be told what to do. They grew up independent, so they think that they can do it themselves. Because of that, it’s spawned 25% of them either own businesses now or are starting businesses. That’s a gigantic number. The national average is below ten. So twenty-five percent of them, one out of four, is thinking about starting a business or owns one—that shows a degree of independence that isn’t in either of the other generations. They don’t like cockiness, they like confidence. They want—if you’re confident and you’re trying to sell them something, they want to make sure they have stats to back it up, because they’re also the researching generation. When you tell them something, they don’t take it at face value. They listen, and then they go research before they make their decisions. So when you are marketing and doing advertising, showing testimonials, giving resources for them to go out and make that decision easier for them is fantastic. Social proof on websites, things like that, can really help a lot. Boundaries and limitations. Gen Xers believe a ton in themselves. They believe that if they can put their mind into something, they can achieve it. Some of that is why they go into business for themselves, but because of the independence they had as a kid, they think that they can do anything. So they don’t like when people put boundaries on them, or corporate ceilings, things like that really turn them off. They don’t like B.S. Think grunge bands—the Nirvanas, the Alice in Chains, the Soundgardens, Pearl Jam. They all had a certain thing about them where they were wearing clothes that were comfortable, not because they looked good. They were very much buck the system, they had the—they wanted to do it their own way. Well that all came out of that era, and it’s very much a persona of who that generation was at the time—or not quite like that now, as far as wanting to buck the system and all that—but that’s what they came through and were part of that generation. The grunge phase. They value passion over production. So they want to see films that put a lot of work into it in trying to move people, rather than something that has just great production value. So for example, Transformers that just came out—great production value, but it’s kind of boring and terrible. It didn’t resonate with Gen Xers. Movies like The Shawshank Redemption, though, did. Because it was very passionate, it told a great story, and today it’s risen in the IMDB to the number one movie primarily because of that generation.

Now what do they value? Self-reliance. Like I mentioned, 25% of them own their own business or are starting their own business. It means that they know they can do something when they put their mind to it. They also know that they can learn things and that the resources out there are unending of how they can pick up a new skill, a new trade, start a new business. Security. Once they choose a company that they’re going to do business with, as long as that company continues to do a good job, they’re extremely loyal. They will share it with their friends, their family, they become household names. That’s something that isn’t quite as common with Millennials. They’re more experiential, so they will try something else just because rather than stay loyal to a brand. 82% home ownership. They believe they should own a home rather than living forever at home with their parents or renting for a long time—that was a real big sense of pride for them because of their independence. So 82% of them are homeowners, plus again, they’re at the peak of their buying power. So if you’re a realtor, they’re going to either be selling or buying a home in the next 5-10 years. They also value family very much. They’re, right now because of their earning power, they’re supporting the Millennials because their kids can’t support themselves right now, even though a lot of them are 20, 25 years old. They are also supporting their parents, who the Boomers were all about “We’re going to spend it all. Our parents saw the Great Depression, they never spent a dime, we’re going to spend it all.” That’s what the Boomers were all about. Gen Xers kind of went backwards on that. They said, “No we’re not going to spend it all, we’re going to save it, we’re going to take care of our parents and our kids.” So it’s kind of funny how every other generation will kind of mirror each other in some fashions. One of the reasons that’s important if you’re selling financial goods or for investment, they really take that stuff into consideration. So know that they will do the right research, they do care about saving for the future, those are things that you can put into your marketing to make sure that you as a brand value that as well.

They’re early adopters. You think about Atari, you think about iPods, those were both in that Generation X—to where they were the ones buying them. They launched completely new markets out of that. One, obviously, with a device that holds thousands of songs, the other one an entire gaming industry. Most of that is because they were the ones to adopt early and to really catapult it. Mail still works. So if you’re a company and you’re looking to market to Gen Xers, Direct Mail actually might be something that will work for you. Because they are the generation that opens the mail still. Millennials, they’re not opening the mail, in fact they don’t like it. Gen Xers will still pull it out, they still look forward to it a lot of times, so that might be a good way to get in front of them. Social Media, obviously. Just like Millennials, Gen Xers are very much on social media. They have platforms that they prefer—YouTube and Twitter being their two primary ones, but a lot of them are big on Facebook as well. You’re not going to see as many of them on Instagram or SnapChat, but they like to digest information which is brief—Twitter handles that—and they like YouTube because they love to devour information, they love research. Expert Content. They like blogs, they like websites: again, they like to research before they make decisions, so going online and having a good website that will give that presence of authenticity, will give you authority in your business, it’s very important to them. They like to go somewhere that’s got a lot of information that they can digest so it helps them make their decisions. So websites are far more important to them than to Millennials. They like lifestyle conveniences. So if you’re launching a product or a service that can make their life a little easier or save them time, save them a little money, they’re all about it. They were the ones that were the reason that Groupon took off. Companies like MassDrop were literally created for that generation. And sure, Millennials, Boomers, they will use those services, but primarily it’s the Gen Xers.

So, those are a couple things that you can take away from this when you are talking to Generation X: understanding a little background about who they are, how they like to buy, and hopefully this helps. So thanks for tuning in to Episode 19 of Aftershock Weekly. We look forward to seeing you next week. But with that, we’ll leave you with a quote.