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Are You Marketing to the Forgotten Generation?

Is your small business’s marketing plan targeting America’s biggest spenders? No I’m not talking about the Millennials — those underemployed kids have big dreams, but small budgets. I’m not talking about Baby Boomers, either. No, the generation on my mind is Generation X.

Mocked as “slackers” in their youth, now ignored by most marketers in favor of those attention-getting Millennials, Generation X consumers are actually in their prime spending years. What’s more, although they make up just 25 percent of U.S.—a smaller generation than both the Boomers and the Millennials—they have more spending power than either of those generations, or 31 percent of total U.S. adult income, according to data from Shullman Research Center.

So what do you need to know to successfully target Generation X as customers? This generation can be a little bit confusing to understand. Stuck between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers, they straddle two worlds — responsive both to digital advertising, such as online video, and old-fashioned methods such as email and even print.

Generation X consumers tend to be skeptical. After seeing their parents lose their jobs in the recession of the 1980s, they lost their own jobs (or at least saw their savings decimated) in later recessions. As a result, this age group is focused on saving money, planning for retirement and gaining financial security. That means they’re always looking for savings, discounts and deals. They rely on LivingSocial, Groupon and similar sites when shopping, especially for non-essential items.

However, Generation X consumers are also in the busiest stage of their lives. Yes, those former fans of grunge and extreme sports are now in their 30s and 40s, raising children of their own, at the peak of their careers and possibly even caring for aging parents. As a result, they’re always pressed for time. Any marketing message that convinces them your business can help them get things done faster or offer more convenience will resonate with this age group.

No wonder that Generation X frequently makes online purchases — they enjoy being able to compare prices, research products and save time via ecommerce. This year, eMarketer estimates that over seven in 10 Gen Xers will make purchases online; by 2019, that figure will be closer to 80 percent.

Generation X share with the Baby Boomers an interest in health and fitness. Products and services that appeal to Boomers and are likely to be hits with this generation, too, include fitness classes, healthy foods or snacks, exercise apparel or weight-loss programs.

Email hits the target for this group: Unlike Millennials, who consider email hopelessly old-fashioned, or the oldest Baby Boomers, who are still suspicious of it, Generation X relies on email both for work and for personal communication. Reaching out to Generation X customers with email marketing is a great way to grab their attention.

If you do get their attention, you’re likely to keep it. In one study cited by eMarketer, more than half of Generation X consumers describe themselves as “extremely” or “quite” loyal to their favorite brands. Clearly, X marks the spot where profits can be made.

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Author information

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at