Generation X, which includes approximately 46 million Americans born between 1965 and 1980, has received little attention, especially in comparison to the large, trend-setting generations that sandwich it – Boomers and Millennials. However, as more Boomers begin to retire and leave the workforce, Gen Xers are taking the spotlight as the leaders, innovators and spenders of tomorrow.
Putting Gen X into Context
Gen X is known for having skepticism of politics, big business and other mainstream authority figures, sentiments that may stem from the historical moments that shaped their formative years: the 1970s energy crisis, Watergate, the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, the first Gulf War and many others.
As young professionals, many Gen Xers were lucky to enter the workforce during the Clinton administration boom years, but have since faced long stretches of corporate downsizing and layoffs. They place more importance on work-life balance and place a premium on family time. This may be a reaction to watching their parents work long hours and sacrifice family for work; Gen X was the first generation to grow up in homes with higher rates of divorce, single parents and two working parents. Stuck in middle-management positions until their Boomer colleagues retire, Gen Xers are waiting in the wings, ready for promotions into leadership positions that will allow them to build on their unique visions of corporate structure and office cultures.
When it comes to finance, Gen Xers have lived through three major economic recessions and are currently in the hardest economic phase of their lives – many with kids living at home, half-paid mortgages and the looming responsibility of paying for their children’s educations.
Gen X as Consumers
Gen Xers are starting to reach peak income and spending power years. According to Shullman Research Center, Gen X currently has more spending power than both Boomers and Millennials. Despite this, as a group they are still receiving less attention from marketers than Boomers and Millennials, partially due to a smaller population size and unremarkable spending habits.
Known for being skeptical, Gen X consumers like to shop around and do research before making major purchases. From packaged goods to health care, they want companies to act as a resource and provide information, not a sales pitch, and they expect top-notch service.
In general, Gen X responds well to authenticity and prefers a straightforward approach to marketing. According to a 2012 Nielsen report, Gen Xers are drawn to calm, safe advertisements that show realistic, everyday life experiences. This is a stark contrast from Millennials, who prefer high-energy, extreme scenarios.
Successfully reaching Gen X consumers will require brands to understand the generation’s particular interests and sensibilities: a focus on the family, messaging around safety and protection, and an emphasis on health.
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November 8, 2016 | Research