Generation X, ranging in age from late 30s to early 50s, is oft referred to as the “forgotten generation.” Advertisers have taken this moniker literally, as the generation sandwiched between Baby Boomers and Millennials is scarcely targeted by them. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Big. Huge!"
Yes, Gen X falls behind Boomers and Millennials by size; 66 million for Gen X, compared to 75.4 million Boomers and an estimated 83.1 million Millennials.
When did a targetable audience of 66 million become unexciting?
Also dubbed the slacker generation, a 2015 report by Sage Group found Gen Xers actually launched 55% of new businesses in the United States and Canada that same year. The bad rap is hard to shake.
“When Gen X first started making noise, they were labeled as slackers, and that stuck in the minds of companies," author and marketing consultant Rieva Lesonsky told Adweek. "Even when Gen Xers proved they weren't slackers, nobody ever gave them another label, and nobody's paid them any respect at all," she added.
The challenge for advertisers might be in where Gen X is positioned demographically. This generation wasn’t born computer savvy, email wasn’t a commonplace form of communication … yet, and social media was far from existence; traditional methods of targeting like TV, radio and print were the likely ad mediums. In 2018, Gen X is the generation that spends a hefty chunk of time on social media, yet also still watches television. Where does an advertiser target Gen X? Online, TV or a combination of both?
A Verto Analytics study from Feb. 2018 found the majority of adult online shoppers are Gen X (35%), ahead of Millennials (30%) and baby boomers (31%).
Yet at the same time, Gen X viewers watch more TV shows produced by networks compared to Millennials, according to a Business Insider survey conducted by Rotten Tomatoes.
Referrals from friends and family, along with show buzz, largely decide which programs both Gen X and Millennials watch. After that, the survey found, Millennials look to social media (43%) for information while Gen X looks to television ads (39%).
Which brands should target Gen X? All of them. Gen Xers are notorious for having minimal retirement savings, thanks to credit card and student loan debt, so financial services companies should be more aggressive targeting this demo than the obvious Baby Boomers and Millennials. A 2017 Stash survey found that Gen Xers (73.04%) are investing more toward retirement than Boomers (72.58%) and Millennials (61.41%).
Despite the lack of savings, Gen X households spend more annually than Boomers and Millennials, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. The possibilities for advertisers are limitless.