Gen X Marketing: Don’t You Forget About Us

Generation XLately, it appears that most marketing content is geared towards millenials or even baby boomers. Although I’m sure they’re all perfectly nice people, it seems like Generation X—born between 1961 and 1981—has been relegated to second-class citizen status when it comes to product promotion.

I don’t only say that because I am approaching middle age (whatever that means) and feeling left out, but because I believe that much of what defines our popular culture today—such as rap music and ground-breaking TV series like “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos” and “Sex in the City”—is a product of my generation. Therefore, our absence from marketing content seems like an anomaly.

With a population of 60 million, Gen X is currently in the prime of their life, both physically and financially, and is a great demographic for marketers. So why is this age group often ignored?

According to a Shullman study, Gen X holds 29 percent of estimated net worth dollars and earns 31 percent of total income dollars, compared to millenials who hold 21 percent of estimated net worth dollars and earn merely 18 percent of total income dollars. Therefore, the exclusion of Gen X as a target audience seems odd at best.

But perhaps to understand why this demographic has been cast aside in favor of millenials in terms of marketing, we need to understand a bit more about Gen X itself. One of the films most associated with our age group is 1989’s “Say Anything,” in which John Cusack’s character famously declares “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed.” This mantra seemed to define a generation, labeled by Baby Boomers as slackers, and notorious for its independence and indifference.

Given these stereotypes, it may make sense that Gen X may come across as fickle and lacking consumer loyalty and, therefore, personas non gratas for marketers. But we were the first to champion Internet shopping, cable TV and online communication. And now, believe it or not, we’re happy.

The Shullman study further revealed that two-thirds of Gen Xers are satisfied or very satisfied with their lives, which usually translates into an absence of fear when it comes to spending. For example, in terms of purchases, 65 percent of upscale and 50 percent of mass-market Gen Xers plan on traveling for pleasure in the next year. Luxury purchases account for half of upscale and one-third of mass market Gen-Xers shopping plans. Also, Gen-X favors fine wines and premium beers.

So why are marketers seemingly ignoring this prime demographic?

The Sound: Strategic Research and Brand Consultancy reports that Gen X can indeed feel less entitled and are less ambitious than millenials, which may explain why marketers, who tend to focus on aspirational lifestyles, favor the latter generation. Gen X is also more reticent when it comes to linking their identity to the material, unlike millenials.

Despite this, this age group is also characterized as passionate and has a youthful outlook. Millenials, on the other hand, desire the maturity and professional paths taken by their Gen X counterparts.

So what’s the answer? Should marketers simply strive to appeal primarily to millenials, who have years of purchasing power ahead of them, or should they balance their campaigns with content that appeals to both? As a Gen Xer, I can safely say that we may be snarky and cynical at times, but we also value quality of life and comfort; therefore, marketing campaigns should develop content that respects those values. Also, as a generation that grew up with all the conveniences of modern life, we’re open to new things and change.

So what the heck, give us a chance; we might pretend not to care but we probably will.