Sophia Laughlin

by Sophia Laughlin | Digital Strategy

“Target” is a key word in marketing. Perhaps our most important word. Who are you speaking to? There are a variety of ways to think of targeting in marketing: behavioral, psychographic, demographic, geographic. And while all of these are important, it’s also crucial to understand how to talk to people from different generations. In this Marketing to Generations series, I’ll be covering digital marketing to Gen Z (1995-2010), Millennials (1980-1994), Gen X (1960-1979), and Baby Boomers (1940-1959) so you can know if you’re reaching these groups in the right place and with the right message.

We have already taken an in-depth look at advertising to Gen Z and Millennials. Now is the time to focus on our next group: Generation X.

Gen X is colloquially known at the latchkey kid generation, meaning that when they were young, Gen Xers were regularly left at home alone after school to take care of themselves until their parents returned home from work for the day.

So, Gen X has developed a reputation for being the self-starters, the quiet doers, and the skeptical (or maybe a better term is “realistic”) purchasers.

The Gen X Mindset

While other generations such as Millennials and Gen Z have a wealth of research about the mindset of their cohort, this is not the case for Gen X. Before, I was able to easily find McKinsey research to help aid in the breakdown of the mindsets of different generations, but was unsuccessful for Gen X. And perhaps this in of itself sums up the Gen X mindset. To put it simply: they’re the middle child in a group of loud siblings, content to go off on their own, entertain themselves, and do what benefits them.

As mentioned before, Gen X is the latchkey kid generation. They got used to taking care of themselves. If they wanted food, they made it. If they ran out of milk, they went to the store and bought it. Imagine Kevin McCallister from Home Alone (though technically 8 in the movie, John Hughes was imagining his 10-year-old son when writing the 1990 film, putting him smack-dab on the edge of the Gen X range).

The result of this general do-it-yourself attitude from when they were youngsters is that Gen X are still self-starters. If they want something, they’ll work to get it. Success to them does not necessarily mean recognition as much as it means personal gain and stability. After all, many of them grew up during the Reagan era and had to contend with a recession when they emerged from high school and college in the early 90s & then again with the Great Recession in 2008.

Gen X are also stuck between two massive generations: Baby Boomers and Millennials. Given this, they can understand both perspectives. They love the newest tech and are usually proficient at working it, unlike some of their Boomer forebears, but they also value hard work and are less likely to demand better work-life balance than Millennials (though many still place great importance on this).

Gen X Consumption

As I called out before, there has been a lot of research on the consumption of other generations, less so on Gen X. But an important thing to remember is that 35% of Gen Xers have a college degree, compared to only 19% of Millennials. Gen X likes to do their research, especially about products that are on the higher price range. Make sure your website is fully flushed out with any information they might seek during their research stage.

Gen Xers also tend to have very high brand loyalty. Once they find a brand they love and trust, they will stick with it if they feel the company is consistently providing them with an acceptable level of service. Make sure you’re taking care of the Gen X consumers who have already converted, whether that be through a rewards program or special deals–their LTV (Lifetime Value) will likely be pretty high.

Another important note is that Gen X values security. They’re going to buy from brands that they have heard good things about from those they trust, whether it’s a friend, an influencer, or another brand. While marketing your product certainly is necessary, make sure the positive vibes aren’t just coming from your mouth, but others’ as well.

Marketing to Gen X

Platforms to Reach Gen X
  • Facebook, Instagram & Twitter95% of Gen Xers use Facebook and 25% post regularly on Twitter. If you’re not already engaging with these users in a platform where they regularly keep up with friends and family, this is a crucial step for your brand.
  • LinkedIn35% of Gen Xers use LinkedIn. They are now at the stage in their life where they are making the majority of high-level business decisions, so getting in front of these users rather than their 20-year-old intern is essential.
  • YouTube – When talking about YouTube advertising for all generations, I sound like a broken record. All generations love it and use it (except for the Silent Generation, those born between 1928-1945). Around 80% of Gen Xers are watching YouTube, though they are more likely to be watching on their TVs or computers.
  • Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, and Direct Mail – Gen X remembers a time before computers and smartphones. They still listen to the radio, read newspapers and magazines (even if they’re digital), and regularly check their mail and will save catalogues and coupons that interest them. Remember what I said earlier about loyalty programs? This is a great place to slip those benefits in.
  • Yelp & TripAdvisor – Gen X regularly looks toward other people to inform their purchasing decisions. When it comes to brick and mortar stores and restaurants, reaching them on a review platform is key.
Age gaps across different social media platforms
Messaging That Speaks to Gen X

Wonderful! We know how to reach Gen Xers, so let’s move on to some ways you can message to them.

  • Call out loyalty programs or insider offers
  • Is there anyone influential who can speak to your brand? Sometimes it’s best to let them to do the talking
  • Be straightforward with information about the product; Gen Xers dislike feeling deceived
  • Make sure to note free and/or fast shipping
  • Be authentic in how you speak about your products (Gen Xers tend to fall on the cynical side and will find it ridiculous if you’re too over the top)

Of course, all this is just a starting point. Narrowing all members of a generation down to a few bullet points is a way to sum up the main ideas, but these vary even more within the different industries and unique audiences your brand is seeking to bring in. For more help crafting a digital marketing solution to reach and convert your Gen X audience, talk to our team!