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From Slackers to C Suite: Marketing to Generation X

by Michelle Kratzer
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Business & Marketing

Which generation, originally known as apathetic slackers who refused to grow up, were responsible for starting 4/5 businesses in 2002 and currently account for 51% of leadership roles globally?

Here’s a hint: they grew up wearing one glove, idolizing the Brat Pack, watching MTV and thinking their acid wash jeans were groundbreaking (really?). We are talking about Generation X - those born between mid 1960 and 1980.

In 1990, Time Magazine published “Proceeding with Caution”, an article portraying Gen Xers as idle goof-offs without the slightest interest in growing up, only to retract it in a 1997 article “Great Expectations of So-Called Slackers”, citing their ambition as tech entrepreneurs and leaders in small businesses. Suddenly, the slackers were running corporations and somehow sneaking their way into the C suite.

 

              TIME                               TIME image 2

Will the real Gen X please stand up?

 

This generation is not as numerous as the others. They only make up one quarter of the US population. However, since they still manage to generate 31 percent of total US income, they deserve our attention. Most companies do not have a marketing strategy for these folks, opting instead to focus on their Millennial counterparts. This neglected middle child generation, sandwiched between Millennials and Baby Boomers, is tired of being ignored; but how do you market to the Jan Brady of the bunch?

 

Here are 5 things to remember in your pursuit of Generation X:

 

Educate them into buying:

35% of Gen Xers have college degrees. They value education and research, and this spills over into their buying habits. They read more reviews and visit more opinion sites than any other generation. They rarely buy a product until they’ve thoroughly researched search engines, online reviews, and social media comments. So, to reach this demographic, provide easy-to-find information on your product online.

In person, a sincere, honest approach goes far. Show them that you know what you are talking about. They want to look at you as the expert, and in doing so, become educated themselves about their purchases. Joe Stagaman, EVP, Advertising Effectiveness Analytics for Nielsen Newswire put it this way: “Generation X is uniquely positioned. They know what they want and what they like and most importantly who they are. Recognizing this creates an opportunity for marketers to appeal to this population with a genuine and realistic campaign that Gen Xers can identify with.”

 

Focus on Family:

Perhaps because they were latchkey kids, they put family first. More than half of Gen X women and men work flexible hours in the ongoing pursuit of that elusive work/life balance. The wants and needs of this generation are born within the family they love. Whether it is a product, a once-in-a-lifetime shared experience or a meaningful keepsake to pass to the next generation, marketing efforts should convey the value that an item lends to the family.

 

Appeal to their Healthy Lifestyle:

As this segment of the population gets older, the focus on their own health has become more important. Diet fads are forsaken in exchange for wholesome foods and supplements. Exercise equipment, fitness classes and work-out apparel compliment their healthy, active lifestyle. Whatever you are marketing to them, tie it in to their health and quality of life. In other words, show them that you care about them holistically.

 

Offer them Financial Protection:

Long removed from the carefree days of watching MTV, the Gen Xers of today embrace security and protection of everything they value: from their home, to their family, to their money. Sometimes referred to as a “Sandwich Generation”, Gen Xers are often financially responsible for their parents while continuing to support their college age children. 57% of Gen X are dipping into their retirement funds for non-retirement, unexpected expenses, and 44% worry that they have not saved enough for their retirement. If your product can protect anything dear to them, focus on it.

 

Hit the Right Screens:

Gen Xers use multiple screens, and to hit the bullseye, you must foresee which device they will most likely be using when they view your marketing campaign. 81% of them have Facebook accounts and use this as their primary social media. Texting, checking weather and playing games can all be viewed on their cell phones, while laptops will be called in for the heavy lifting, like research or banking. This generation still uses email, so utilize this to reach out with new recommendations. Consider using a free analytics tool like Google Analytics to make sure your ads are hitting the right screen at the right time.

 

Admittedly, Generation X is a lot of work to win over. They expect solid facts and are careful about spending (perhaps because of their average $125,000 student loan debt). A generic marketing approach will get you nowhere here. So, skip the canned sales talk and win their attention with a personalized straightforward approach. Convey concern for their wellbeing. Show them why your high-quality product either solves an issue or adds real value to their lives. Once you’ve invested the time to earn their business, they may choose to repay you with brand loyalty.

 

Want better insights on the customers that will keep you profitable? Call the CX Team at SurveyMe. Insight is our business.

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