There’s no doubt Baby Boomers have changed how endemic categories (e.g., health and finance) view and speak to older consumers, which has resulted in more authentic and youthful ad campaigns that resonate on a deeper level. And, it’s also true that Boomers’ unrivaled spending power has caused mainstream brands to at least question the wisdom of ignoring consumers once they turn 50. Despite this progress, however, the question of how to convince more mainstream brands to target consumers 50+ with any regularity persists.
The answer may just be the often-maligned Generation X population. Gen Xers begin turning 50 in 2015, and they appear well positioned to play a significant role in improving marketers’ attitudes toward consumers of a certain age, for a variety of reasons.
Make no mistake — Boomers will continue to impact marketers’ perceptions for
years to come — but there are relevant trends suggesting that Gen X may be the push needed to finally transform how mainstream brands perceive older consumers. Here are 5 of them:
1. Gen X will continue to grow the 50+ population at a rapid rate
Over the next five years, Gen Xers, along with others age 50+, will offer brands an opportunity for revenue growth that is three times what they could achieve targeting 18-49 year olds. And the reason is simple math. According to government estimates, 18 million Gen Xers will turn 50 by 2019, while the number of deaths among people 50+ during that time will be half that amount. The net result will be growth in the total 50+ population of 8.7 million, which is three times the growth among the 18-49 population (2.4 million).
2. Gen X at 50+ will offer considerable spending power
The 18 million Gen Xers turning 50 over the next five years have a higher household income than any other generation (median $75,000), and have a net worth of $248,000, just $35,000 shy of that of Baby Boomers. Millennials have much lower household income ($59,000) and household net worth ($137,000). While Boomers will remain the most powerful generation in terms of consumer spending, older Gen Xers are not far behind, and they offer mainstream marketers a much greater opportunity to drive revenue than do Millennials.
3. Gen Xers will continue to bring the fountain of youth to the face of 50
Brands fearful of aging their brand by targeting 50 year olds will be encouraged by society’s embrace of high-profile Gen Xers on the verge of 50, among them the eternally youthful Brooke Shields (49), Halle Berry (48), Cindy Crawford (48), and Julia Roberts (47). If current hits on screens big and small are any indication, Gen Xers on the verge of turning 50 will continue to create a cultural buzz. Robert Downey, Jr. (49) will star in new installments of his successful movie franchises, “Avengers” and “Captain America,” in 2015 and 2016. The new envelope-pushing TV hit show, “How to Get Away with Murder,” stars Gen Xer Viola Davis (49). And, Anderson Cooper (47) will undoubtedly maintain his daily, high-profile news presence on television. Other soon-to-be 50 Gen Xers include Chris Rock (49), Sarah Jessica Parker (49), Adam Sandler (48), Vin Diesel (47), and Keith Urban (47).
4. Gen X’s ethnic diversity will broaden targeted marketing opportunities
As the 50+ population continues to grow, marketers are seeking opportunities to target specific segments of the population. Gen Xers will increase these opportunities among 50+ by bringing greater racial and ethnic diversity to the table. Compared to today’s 50+ population, Gen Xers are 84% more likely to be Spanish, 75% more likely to be Asian, and 24% more likely to be African-American. This will enable companies to continually develop products, services and messaging reflecting the cultural norms, brand affinities, and spending behaviors of different racial and ethnic groups.
5. Gen Xers will raise the bar on 50+ tech involvement
While Boomers are online daily and spend more than any other generation online, Gen Xers will bring an even deeper level of digital media use to their 50+ years. They are roughly twice as likely as today's typical person age 50+ to connect to the Internet via mobile devices, and they are more heavily invested in a broad range of social media platforms — including Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. Gen Xers expect “anytime, anywhere” access to brands, making them prime targets for digital marketing efforts.
The Bottom Line
Boomers continue to redefine life at age 50+, and marketers are taking note. There remains, however, much progress to be made in marketers’ perceptions of the value of targeting the 50+ demographic. With their considerable size and spending power, their youthful and diverse faces and their Millennial-rivaling technology usage, Gen Xers may be the final push needed to secure a rightful and lasting place for older consumers on mainstream marketers’ radar.
Not a bad legacy for a bunch of so-called slackers.