Hey marketers, stop ignoring Generation X

Gen Xers are all grown up with money to spend, so why aren’t more content marketers paying attention?

BY Libby Ellis
Content Director, Imagination

Generation X is trending—just check out all of the millennials clomping around your office in Doc Martens talking about Lollapalooza. Yet despite the influx of flannel nationwide, many marketers continue to snub Xers.

That’s a mistake. Despite making up only 25 percent of the population, this small but mighty demographic controls 31 percent of U.S. income. The oldest members of Gen X turned 50 a few years back, and the youngest members are in their late 30s. That means most of us have jobs and—often—disposable income. Gen X outspends all other generations when it comes to housing, clothing and dining out, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Gen Xers notice the cold shoulder from marketers. Fifty-four percent report frustration that brands aren’t marketing directly to them. They’re hungry for content specific to their life cycle concerns and preferences. Here are three industries that might want to start talking to the forgotten generation.

Reality doesn’t bite (Food service)

According to The Hartman Group, 43 percent of Gen Xers eat out at least once a week. That puts them on par with millennials in terms of frequency, but this demographic spends the most money of any generation on a night out. They tend to crave authenticity, trendy cocktails and shareable plates and worry less than millennials or boomers about price. You can attract Gen Xers by promoting speedy service, healthy options, transparent food sourcing and clean labeling practices.

Market research firm Technomic reports that a few restaurant brands are succeeding in targeting customers by generation. For example, the take-and-bake pizza place Papa Murphy’s is a favorite among Gen X. Its marketing is hyper-local and focused on moms and families seeking quality. The restaurant hosts talk radio segments with influential moms and connects consumers with exclusive experiences such as behind-the-counter tours.

This is not my beautiful house (Insurance and financial services)

Generation X has a homeownership rate of 82 percent, according to MetLife, and accounts for 28 percent of recent home purchases, according to a 2017 report from the National Association of Realtors. You know what homeowners need? Insurance. And homeowners insurance is just one of their many needs. 2011 research from LIMRA estimated the Gen X market for life insurance at $7.1 trillion. Millennials? $0.70 trillion.

While most companies scramble after millennials, a few, such as Egan, Berger & Weiner, throw Gen X a bone with one-off articles like “Life Insurance for Gen X: How Much Coverage Do You Need?” With a knowledge center featuring topics such as caring for parents, Gen X is on the firm's radar, if not front and center. And Lincoln Financial recently launched a TV ad for Xers. It features diverse families balancing work, children and caring for aging parents. Who’s slacking now?

What’s my age again? (Senior living)

“Nearly half of American adults in their 40s and 50s are already in the sandwich generation caring for a child and an aging parent,” according to Care.com's 2016 Senior Care Survey. Those caregiving responsibilities often include supporting parents as they consider senior living options. In many cases, the adult children are leading the charge. Providers who directly address Gen X pain points—financial obligations, guilt and misunderstanding about the options are three big ones—are poised to become valuable partners.

Senior living as an industry has been slower to embrace content marketing. However, HumanGood (an Imagination partner with which I work) recently rebranded post-merger and relaunched its resource center with an eye toward balancing content for adult children and seniors—tags like “sandwich generation” and “caregiver support” guide the way for Gen Xers.

Bonus: By 2050, there will be about 84 million people over age 65—many of them Gen Xers who will be thinking about their own retirement housing options. Introduce yourself now because this is a brand-loyal group. In 2015, CrowdTwist found that half of Gen X self-characterized as extremely or quite loyal to brands.

But resist the urge to think you have to go old school. Younger members of this generation started college without an email address but graduated with a laptop and Ethernet cable in their dorm rooms. And the upper end of the age bracket got up to speed with technology fast.

It’s an omnichannel world. Build a targeted content program with a wide reach, and Gen X will respond.

published: August 03, 2017

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