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Remembering the 'Forgotten' Generation - Generation X

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Remembering the 'Forgotten' Generation - Generation X

By Natalia Ashton-Togher

Before everyone’s number one target was Millennials, we had the - as some say – ‘forgotten’ generation, Generation X.

Typically, Gen X birth years range from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s. The sort-of ‘middle child’ generation, it’s easy for Gen X to be left out and neglected by brands, with the focus instead being on the large Boomer generation, or the ever-vocal Millennials.

Making Gen X tick

Like Millennials, Gen X appreciate when a brand approaches them in an unconventional way. They too put honesty and authenticity high on their list of priorities when it comes to choosing brands. Spending their time flitting between new and old media, Xers are reachable almost anywhere. 

There are quite a few recent examples of ads reaching out to Gen X, by tapping into their nostalgia; He-Man and Skeletor for MoneySupermarket, Ghostbusters for Halifax, and the Muppets in ads for about 50 different things, ranging from giant crumpets to video calling.

There’s good reason for these ads to contain throwbacks for Gen X, as a research paper published in the Journal of Consumer Science found that we spend more money when we're feeling nostalgic*, and Gen X tend to have a bit more money than Millennials.

In fact, Experian found that the high earning, high spending Generation X are the largest contributors to UK economy**. Those in their early 40s spend more on lifestyle and holidays than anyone else - even Millennials - and have been the biggest spenders in the lifestyle category since 2013, with the number increasing year-on-year.

Nostalgia works a treat

Gen X are the first generation to be able to fully indulge in their nostalgia. Not only can they access TV shows, music, tech and toys from the 80s and 90s on demand, but they know how to. They understand how to use the tech on offer to do this, something Boomers aren’t quite as good at.

But don’t just grab Penelope Pitstop to promote the launch of your new lipstick range. It’s lazy to just throw any old character that people might remember into your campaign, and it doesn’t show any effort to personalise. People want something they can interact with, something tangible. Think about the rise of the adult ball pit in events and clubs, the resurgence of vinyl and the Pokémon Go craze.

Nostalgia can also be combined with a cross-generational marketing campaign to form a great method of getting Xers involved with your brand; by crafting an experience that allows their kids to experience a part of Gen X’s past. For example, McDonald’s has recently run a promotion to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its iconic Happy Meal, by putting one of 15 popular toys from the past into meals. Throwback characters include McDonald’s-specific toys like Grimace and Hamburglar, as well as Furby and Hello Kitty, in a bid to lure in parents, as well as their kids.

Gen X crave experiences

In every media variety, Gen Xers have been pushing the envelope towards interactivity, and away from mass communication, since they first discovered how to turn on the TV. Boomers and older generations often perceive technology as dehumanising and too mechanised, but Gen X have been finding ways to personalise technology as it develops***.

Back in the 80s and 90s it was difficult to spread the news about your brand, product or service if you had a small budget. Your main channels were TV, print and radio, so brand experiences were more common and a good way to get the attention of the press.

Gen X have been exposed to experiential, and it’s clear they understand it and what it has to offer. So why aren’t they being targeted anymore? Why are they the forgotten middle child of the generations?

The forgotten generation

A 2019 Mintel report found that marketers are losing touch with the positive traits that Gen Xers have proudly retained as they have matured. Of the generations still likely to be working full-time, Generation X comes out top for identifying as ‘busy’. The chance to sleep, exercise and relax is being put under pressure, as more than a quarter of Gen Xers struggle to find enough time for them.

Despite this, a sense of fun and adaptability persists among the group, and they welcome any opportunity to develop this further. Even though six out of ten Gen Xers say they feel young for their age (which could also explain why they love nostalgia so much), just over a third say they can relate to how people their age are portrayed in the media.

By offering playful experiential campaigns, Gen Xers can be given the chance to step away from their day-to-day stresses and have fun.

Keep an open mind

Another missed opportunity when it comes to their traits is with open-mindedness. 56% of Gen Xers see this trait in themselves, but only 15% feel as though it is reflected back to them by companies and brands. By offering Gen Xers the chance to show off their open-mindedness through experiential campaigns, by trying new products and breaking away from traditional values, you can be assured to see success.

Gen X are the original brand experience advocates. The first generation to call for more transparency and honesty for brands. The first ones to begin to tune out of traditional advertising methods as they truly want a connection from brands, and to be shown that they’re making an effort. Not to mention the fact that they have the disposable income and decision-making power within their household to increase your brand’s market share.

Next time, don’t leave them out.

 

Sources:

* Jannine D. Lasaleta, Constantine Sedikides, and Kathleen D. Vohs. “Nostalgia Weakens the Desire for Money.” Journal of Consumer Research: October 2014. For more information, contact Jannine Lasaleta (jannine.lasaleta@grenoble-em.com) or visit http://ejcr.org/.

** Experian: https://www.experianplc.com/media/news/2018/the-formidable-40s-high-earning-high-spending-generation-x-are-largest-contributors-to-uk-economy/

***Karen Ritchie, Marketing to Generation X