End the Neglect! Marketing to Generation X

Ah, yes, Generation X.

Born between 1965 and 1984, this crew came of age through two great economic disasters, the housing crash, the death of job security, and the rise of divorce. They grew up during America’s longest war and, in their adulthood, have seen the emergence of an even longer one. Sandwiched between the black-and-white Baby Boomers and Millennials, Gen X is a wash of gray — neither hippies nor hipsters, neither tech natives nor old fogies. The Boomer worldview was defined by the end of WWII; the Millennial worldview by 9/11 and the digital revolution. But what defined Gen X?

Even that name — Generation X — is wishy-washy. Isn’t X just an undefined variable?

Because of the vague, transitional nature of Gen X and its relatively small population, experiential marketing companies often overlook the generation in their discussions about strategy.

But no longer.

Today we discuss the top 10 most important things for experiential marketing firms to remember when targeting Generation X.

1. They’re Worth Your Time

Generation X includes everyone from ages 32 through 53. It’s the most influential living generation. These are our decision makers at both the professional and political levels. They wield more spending power than Boomers or Millennials and they are the most inclined to use that power.

2. They Buy Toys

And not just for themselves. In 2017, Generation X is the parental generation. The youngest pole of this generation is now entering into parenthood; the eldest pole is getting ready to ship their kids to college.

Remember: if you’re targeting kids, you’re targeting their parents too. Every sale to an under-18 is a sale to a Gen Xer.

3. They Buy The Good Stuff

As professionals and parents with money to burn, Gen Xers put a premium on quality. They want to know that a brand is reliable, that a product is hardy, and that media is sophisticated.

Remember: Mad Men wasn’t written for Millennials.

So experiential marketers need to put products in Gen Xers’ hands — show them how smart and tough the goods are.

4. They Care

Although they aren’t quite as liberal as Millennials, Gen Xers prefer brands that do good work outside the marketplace. Experiential marketers would be smart to go pro-social with this demographic. Giving and helping goes a long way.

5. They Can’t Be Fooled

Generation X learned skepticism the hard way. These folks have been through two impeachments. They gave the world grunge music and modern marketing. They are today’s power brokers and executives. They don’t fool easy. They give trust to those who earn it.

So don’t try to win them over with glitz or glamour. Show them your true colors and they’ll respond. Gen X has a history of loyalty when it comes to authentic, transparent brands.

6. They Work Harder Than They Play

Here at the michael alan group, we believe in marketing to people where they live, where they work, and where they play. But when it comes to Gen X, we prioritize where they work. Because Xers are in their prime professional years and they know it.

When we market to these guys, our first questions are: Where is their office? How do they get there? And what’s the first stop after work?

7. They’re On Their Email All The Time – And Also On Social

The only thing that works harder than a Gen Xer is a Gen Xer’s Outlook account. But email isn’t the only digital platform where these folks live. Believe it or not, Gen X spends more time on social than Millennials. Sure, they don’t care for Snapchat much, but Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have them riveted.

Experiential marketers would do well to tap into these information streams, but they should also do so with care. Smart, busy, and thoughtful about their tech use, Gen Xers expect quality shares. And they’re intentional about what they post themselves. So if you’re sharing, make sure you’ve got value-add content. And if you’re encouraging Xers to share, ask: how will this share give the poster a digital hero moment?

8. They Love New Tech

As technology natives, Millennials don’t need to try very hard to stay up-to-date on the latest tech developments. And Boomers are less likely to mind being out of the loop. More than any other generation, Xers have learned to learn when it comes to new tech and they are the most intentionally devoted to staying current.

That’s why we like to draw the 30-50s in by dangling new gizmos in front of them — AR, VR, 360, and whatever new tech has emerged by the time you reach the bottom of the page. All of these technologies should come into consideration when planning an experiential marketing stunt for Generation X.

9. They Put The Message Before The Medium

Despite their interest in new tech and their attachment to email and social, Generation X is uniquely situated to consume messaging across all sorts of media, traditional and digital. Paper, plastic, silicone — it’s all fair game.

This is part of why Gen X is generally neglected in conversations about marketing strategy: all media strategies work on them. Xers are comfortable in the digital world, but also know how to open a newspaper without tearing it in half. So don’t be afraid to mix up the media.

10. They’re Natural Influencers

When it comes to influence, Millennials entering adulthood are looking to their Gen X brothers and sisters for guidance. And Boomers see their Gen X children as their

link to all things new. While Millennials define what’s hip, Gen Xers define what’s good. This generation controls your prestige and your staying power. Marketing to them isn’t just about winning their loyalty, but also about turning them into evangelists.

That’s why we’ve found experiential marketing to be the best way to reach Generation X. It’s the only marketing medium that gives targets the opportunity to interact with brands face-to-face. There can be no question that it produces the highest quality impressions.

Photo credits: The Epoch Times, Space Invaders (CTRPhotos/iStock); roller skates (StockPhotosArt/iStock); TV dinner (Ednam/iStock); Apple MacIntosh (Public Domain)
The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about building a campaign targeted at Generation X.
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