The Forgotten Generation

As marketers look for new target markets to focus on as we slowly move beyond the crippling of COVID-19, we realized that there’s one demographic that has been completely overlooked: Generation X.

There’s been so much discussion on what Gen Z likes, and what Millenials are up to, and even more so, how much money to allocate to the two, leaving the “Forgotten Generation” as an afterthought with digital advertisers spending next to nothing on Gen X. 

Born between 1965 and 1979/80 Gen Xers are currently between 41-56 years old. They make the most money, spend the most money, and save the most money. Yet 54% of Gen Xers feel frustrated that brands constantly ignore them.

We’ve talked about diversity and influencer marketing before; this is where the two collide. Gen Xers are often overlooked because they are bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Generation X is one of the smallest generations in the U.S. and makes up a large portion of the purchasing power. One of the reasons they are the smallest generations is that they’ve been deemed to span just 16 years, while most generations are credited with lasting for about 20. 

But Gen Xers have so much insight and experience to complement any campaign or marketing message. They are resilient, having witnessed the Civil Rights Movement, multiple wars, a financial crisis, the AIDS epidemic, and now a global pandemic. They utilize traditional media, with 48% listening to the radio, 62% still reading newspapers, and 85% watching traditional television. They also love social media 95% of them use Facebook. Gen Xers actually spend more time per week on all devices than Millennials: 21 hours on smartphones, 9 hours on PCs, and 4 hours on tablets. Gen Xers appreciate brand loyalty as much as Boomers and are as tech-savvy as millennials.

And yet, most marketers allocate 50% of their budgets to Myspace-loving millennials, all while neglecting their parents, the generation with the most wealth. In truth, Gen X created blogging; millennials curated it. Roughly half of Gen Xers are financially supporting both a parent and a child at the same time. They make financial decisions that affect all three generations.

After a few highs and lows, and often very costly lessons in great part due to inexperience, advertisers are just starting to see the value of age, wisdom, and in many cases, professional knowledge and skills. The ‘granfluencer’ is the not-so-new-kid-on-the-block. Officially they’re older people who are better at social media than you. Unofficially they’re “Instagrannies.” Granfluencer is the latest term in the social media zeitgeist, which also excludes Gen Xers. 

Gen Xers are adaptable. Although they didn’t grow up with cell phones and social media, they’ve fully adapted to technological advances. They’re people in leadership positions making decisions, but the people signing the checks are the Boomers. Still, instead of focusing on the next check-signing generation, the focus has skipped to Gen Z. 

One thing is a guarantee; time stands still for no one. Boomers are the fading market, millennials are the new market, and Gen X makes most of the money, but none of the recognition. Gen Xers are in their spending prime. The work hard, play hard generation influences both the Boomers and Millennials financially, making major purchase decisions from medical expenses and mortgages to cars and college tuitions. 

It’s clear that a rewarding quality of being a member of Gen X is not caring what people think of you, or if they think of you at all, in great part because they are so busy getting things done. However, it would be wise for the marketing and advertising industry to note the Gen Xer influence and not continue to ignore them as the spending powerhouse they are. They have the highest brand loyalty across all generations, and returning customers account for 40 percent of revenue. Gen X shouldn’t be an afterthought when building an effective marketing strategy – even in an industry so easily distracted by all that is shiny and new.