Gen X Picks Up Where Boomers Left Off

2014 is a big milestone in American demographic history: The last of the Boomers will turn 50. I’m proud to join Michelle Obama, Rob Lowe, Laura Linney, Sandra Bullock and Johnny Depp as we hit AARP eligibility. I’m not putting myself in the celebrity category, although most of us 1964’ers do share a youthful appearance and attitude. (Speaking of AARP, when the application came a few weeks ago, I laughed and tossed it into the recycling bin. I get the part about the discounts, but it feels like it’s for old people, and that’s just not us. We’re a group that still self-identifies as young.) 

There’s another milestone that’s getting less press, but will have similar implications for marketers and brands: In 2015, the first of Generation X starts turning 50 (with the youngest turning 35). Like the younger Boomers who came before them, they will also bring a youthful attitude to the silver birthday club. If it was not already clear to marketers, it’s time that content, campaigns and all other messages are tailored to younger Boomers … and older Gen X’ers.

Nearly 10 years ago, investors poured $32M into a site and portal called eons.com. It was supposed to be a place for people over 50 to come and connect and tap into various channels of content. Frankly, it sounded like a bad idea to me at the time, and unsurprisingly, it failed and no longer exists. It used age as the way to pull people in and make them feel like they belonged in a 50+ foot walled garden. They missed because people self-select content and community based on their passions, interests and desires. Age alone is not a community-organizing principal–no matter what demographic you’re targeting. You must identify and speak to their common interests. 

It’s time to create a marketing plan for a group of consumers 45-55 who share a common bond and history and are at the peak of their earning and spending power. They’re starting to flex their muscle as is evidenced by relatively older actresses (read: not 20 years old) appearing regularly in fashion and makeup commercials. And savvy marketers are eager to cater to them. For instance, OurTime, the new site for singles over 50, is picking up steam. And the site Better After 50 speaks to women (and some men) looking for their second act while showing them how to get the most out of this phase of life. It is not about slowing down, but rather speeding up and making the most out of every minute.

Here are some industries that need to respond:

Financial Services and Planning – This group is likely to live another 30-40 years, which has significant implications on retirement planning. We need to account for a possible second career and stretching the money a long way. Messaging should be directed to this group that is different than those in their 60s. Planners need to have frank conversations about needing to fund a long retirement.

Sports and Fitness - Better sports science and medical advances have us competing harder and longer than ever. There are millions of masters athletes in the U.S. who are being ignored by the big sporting goods manufactures and retailers. From running and biking to Crossfit and team sports, Americans over 50 are still competing hard. I’m signed up for two Spartan races this year and hope to do them for many years to come.

Fashion and Apparel – Again, how about products and campaigns aimed this segment. There has to be a middle ground between youthful fashion, which makes us look silly, and clothes made for old men and women. I don’t want to look like Pauly or the Situation on the Jersey Shore, nor do I want to dress like I am heading to the clubhouse for cards at El Boca Del Vista.

Food and Beverage – In 15-20 years, we are likely to be the healthiest group of senior citizens ever. We have the benefit of a web’s worth of knowledge of all the advances in research and nutritional sciences. Many begin cutting back on meat and animal products as research has shown that a plant-based diet is extremely beneficial after 50. Companies who focus on organics, plant-protein and healthy living should target this group with information, recipes and social campaigns to engage and educate. They will find a willing audience.

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3 comments about "Gen X Picks Up Where Boomers Left Off".
  1. Anne Parris from MidlifeBoulevard.com , March 31, 2014 at 1:32 p.m.
    I totally agree! Which is why I, as a Gen-Xer, am already thinking about the midlife space as a publisher and brand partner. I feel differently about my AARP card, though. The discounts are so great I'm happy to carry it in my wallet at 44 as a provisional member.
  2. Ronna Benjamin from www.betterafter50.com , March 31, 2014 at 1:58 p.m.
    We like to think of 50 as the start of a new chapter-- a chapter where you begin with the benefit of years of wisdom and hopefully, a completely developed sense of humor. We are certainly not our grandmother's 50-- we feel and act young, and we love to connect with each other to hear each other's stories. What do you want to do with the next 30-40 years?-- that is the question we are constantly asking at BA50...we hope you will join us to laugh and to cry and to learn. The market is huge-time to pay attention! www.betterafter50.com
  3. Patricia Lippe Davis from AARP Media Sales , March 31, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.
    While I agree with Gordon Plutsky’s assessment that trailing edge Boomers and Gen X have much in common, I challenge his characterization of AARP, an area where he is less knowledgeable. AARP is specifically geared towards people like Mr. Plutsky when they turn 50 and face more life changes than any other stage of life. My introduction to AARP (prior to my employment here) began with the challenge of caring long distance for my ailing in-laws. AARP was there for me and has been advising me for the past eight years as I have adapted to empty nesting, shifted to a more conservative investment strategy, and planned for my trip of a lifetime now that I have more time and money. Unlike our current 37 million members, some people like Mr. Plutsky “don’t know AARP” as our current ad campaign states. We are all about the Age of Possibilities starting at age 50 and the appeal of our website AARP.org, unlike eons.com, has grown exponentially year-after-year to over 8 million monthly uniques today. So whether you are ready to join now or never, AARP will be there to make the most out of this next phase of life for every generation once they turn 50 and beyond.