Generation X, the “Marcia Brady generation”, are digital hybrids that grew up without the Internet but were the first to fully embrace it. When marketing to them, it’s important to understand their mindset, needs, and turn-offs.
Gen X grew up watching The Brady Bunch on television, so they’re pretty familiar with the plight of Jan Brady, the middle child who wasn’t as put-together as her older sister Marcia and could never be as cute as her younger sister Cindy. Tired of always being an afterthought, in one episode, a distraught Jan utters the words that might as well be a catchphrase for the generation caught between baby boomers and Millennials: “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
Marcia Brady from “The Brady Bunch”
Generation X, born between the years of 1965 and 1980, is often overlooked by marketers since this group is a bit smaller than the other two. However, they are small but mighty, spending over one-third more each year than more sought-after millennials. And like Jan Brady, Gen X often feels ignored. In fact, 54% of Gen X finds it frustrating that marketers overlook them.
So what’s the best way to make Gen X feel included? Send them useful messaging via the channels that actually matter to them.
With baby boomers reaching retirement age and the youngest millennials just starting their careers, these aren’t the groups that are most concerned about pinching pennies to send kids to college or take a big family vacation. But Gen X is reaching the peaks of their careers and many of their children are preparing to head off to college; they’ve also got mortgages and family trips to Disney World to consider. And while everyone likes a deal, Gen X is actively hunting for them.
According to a March 2019 report by Valassis, 93% of Gen X respondents said they had used coupons in the past year. And while conventional marketing wisdom says that moving online offers to mobile and social is the best way to target millennials, that’s not necessarily the case with Gen X, the oldest of whom were in their early thirties when computers in homes were just starting to become standard.
For the most part, Gen X would rather not be bothered on social media and especially not on mobile. According to a recent study by Quad, 52% of Gen X respondents said they did not like being contacted by brands via text. Just 23% said they looked at offers via mobile app, and only 31% could be reached by internet ads. So how does one reach this seemingly elusive generation?
Generation X tends to dislike disruptive ads
Unlike Millennials, who are often easier to reach via mobile or through targeting on social, Gen X is most likely to be checking their email. That makes sense because this generation is juggling kids, career, and leisure time and are not necessarily tethered to their phones. However, they are at work all day, probably checking Outlook and Gmail, so it stands to reason that email accounts are one of the best places to reach them.
Recent research by Sendgrid found that 92% of the Gen X respondents in their study had used email in the last month, more than any other generation. And 80% of Gen X-ers name email as their preferred means of brand messaging.
Gen X grew up watching Mr. McFeely bring the mail to Mr. Rogers every day, and waiting for the kindhearted delivery man to bring all manner of surprises seems to have left quite the impression, since most people from this generation still prefer paper mail to other forms of messaging.
And while many claim that digital marketing has killed direct mail, or at least it will very soon, Generation X still opens their mail quite frequently and absolutely use the coupons and offers they find there. A recent study by InnoMedia, NuStats, and Vertis found that 86% were bringing in their mail every day, and of those, 68% had used coupons brands sent.
In the 1994 romantic comedy Reality Bites, Winona Ryder’s character sneers “I’m not going to work at the Gap, for Christ’s sake,” when her roommates suggest she get a part-time corporate job until she figures out how to make money in a way that feels meaningful to her. One of the punchlines in the film is a House of Style parody in which the supermodel host raves about an expensive Donna Karan bandana inspired by gang violence.
Reality Bites is a Generation X classic
These days, Gen X still has some real skepticism about brands, and empty promises are a surefire way to turn this generation off. On the other hand, companies that deliver on promises will see a huge benefit. Studies show that nearly half of Gen X-ers report being loyal to their favorite brands, and many say they’re willing to pay more for products from companies they trust.
Messaging Gen X is all about authenticity. Brands that make good on their promises and deliver offers important to the “middle child” generation will earn loyalty for years to come.
Related: Kenshoo 5: Five Things to Know When Marketing to Baby Boomers
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