Why can’t all consumers be more like Generation X?

To understand any generation, you have to consider their past, present, and future.

Right now, four generations of consumers are in the marketplace at the same time. Discussions about how to engage these different groups is pervasive, but many forget to include Generation X and the talk is heavily dominated by Millennials and Gen Z.

For an increasingly youthful advertising industry, Generation X is too easy to overlook. Generally accepted to have been born in that sliver of time between 1965 and 1980. Gen X grew up during the AIDS epidemic, the Challenger disaster, military conscription, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the personal computer, the Watergate scandal, Sharpeville, the end of Apartheid and the resultant democratic transition. Their core values include diversity, self-reliance, practicality, informality, work/life balance, flexibility, and technology. Gen X are pragmatic, independent and resourceful, they don’t need hand holding.

They have enjoyed a lifelong love affair with radio and once spent long evenings and entire weekends, creating mix tapes directly from their favourite station. In fact, music bound them together and still does. Gen X music, remains gloriously unfaded. They know what they want and what they like and most importantly, who they are.

While Millennials and Gen Z grab the spotlight and the lion’s share of advertisers budgets, Gen X is running the economy, with little fanfare. Growing up before the dawn of the internet, they have easily adjusted and adapted to advances in technology. Nielsen found that Gen X is actually the most connected generation. Their experience with both worlds helps them relate simultaneously to Boomers and Millennials, in fact they serve as a bridge between the two generations. Most are looking after both their aging Boomer parents and their own children.

If money is purchasing power, then it becomes even more difficult to explain why Generation X is all but forgotten in media plans. Business Insider recently revealed that Gen X make the most money of all four target generations. The Global Leadership Forecast reported that Gen X also hold 51% of leadership roles globally. The oldest Gen X consumers will still be in the workforce for at least 10 years, and the younger members of the generation will still be working for more than 30, meaning that Gen X will be forming the backbone of the consumer market for quite some time. Those that overlook Gen X in favour of focusing only on the youngest generations will miss out on the deepest and most valuable source of buying power.

Although in their youth, Gen X were completely satisfied to play with Pet Rocks (which was literally just a rock), or the world’s first video game, Pong (literally a dot on the screen, moving between two cursors), today they are defined by an entrepreneurial mindset and work hard, play hard thinking.

There is no group of people better equipped to deal with the challenges facing our economy today. When executives at Nike studied Gen X it found the generation’s hallmarks are “flexibility,” “innovation,” and “adaptability.” “They have developed strong survival skills and the ability to handle anything that comes their way,” the study said.

Frankly, in a recovering economy businesses can’t afford to ignore any part of their market. It’s time to take another look at Generation X, they are in their prime earning years and we ignore them at our own peril.

Written by Rivak Bunce, Managing Director at United Stations.

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