marketing to Generation X

By Rieva Lesonsky

Remember Generation X? Those “slackers,” as they used to be disparagingly dubbed, are now middle-aged managers, entrepreneurs, parents and homeowners. But more than that, they’re a hugely profitable demographic that businesses are largely ignoring. If you’re not marketing to Generation X, you’re making a big mistake.

A recent report by Sparks and Honey, Gen X @ 50, examines the characteristics of these 35- to 50-year-olds. Here’s what you need to know about Generation X, why they’re so valuable as customers and how to target them.

Generation Xers are the new “sandwich generation.” Nearly one-third (30 percent) say they have to help their aging parents with daily living tasks such as managing their finances. Looking into the future, nearly half (48 percent) of Xers say it’s very likely they will have to provide primary care for their parents.

But parents aren’t the only burden on Generation X: About one-third (32 percent) still have Millennial-aged children living at home with them. And more than one-fourth (27 percent) of Gen X parents say they are the primary means of financial support for at least one millennial child.

Finally, Generation X faces its own financial burdens. Even though the majority of Gen Xers have been out of college for at least 15 years, they still have nearly as much student loan debt as Millennials do — an average of $20,000. Overall, the average Generation X household has $111,000 in debt.

The good news is that Generation X is in the peak of its earning power, which gives them lots of spending power. The 66 million Generation Xers in the United States account for about 25 percent of the population, but control 31 percent of total U.S. income. In addition, because they are so closely tied to their Millennial and Generation Z children, as well as their Baby Boomer parents, Generation X has a lot of influence over these groups’ spending habits.

Generation X’s close connection with multiple generations reflects their unique position as consumers. They are the only generation to have been adults both before and after the digital revolution. As a result, they’re more digital-savvy than Baby Boomers, but also retain some pre-Internet habits, unlike Millennials, who never experienced a world without the web.

For example, Generation X consumers still rely heavily on traditional media. More than six in 10 read newspapers, 48 percent listen to the radio and 85 percent have favorite television shows. At the same time, Generation X is also at ease in the digital world. More than eight in 10 are active on Facebook, about 75 percent regularly shop online, and 5.9 million use Snapchat.

Their ease in multiple worlds makes marketing to Generation X easy to do, Sparks and Honey contends. Unlike, say, Generation Z teenagers, it’s not necessary to develop specifically targeted marketing and advertising campaigns for Gen X. Because they are so adaptable, Xers will connect with just about any type of advertising for any type of demographic in any type of media. To target this generation, diversify your marketing mix over a wide variety of channels, incorporating both digital and traditional advertising.

The best part about marketing to Generation X: Because they are so connected to other generations, the report notes, when you target Generation X, your message trickles down to other generations as well.