Gen X – the third largest generation by population in the UK – are often the most overlooked by marketers in comparison to their popular contemporaries – millennials and Gen Z. But they are a cohort of immense potential, having higher spending power and greater brand loyalty. Rituparna Chatterjee – from our Insight & Strategy team – explores this generation and the ways brands can optimally target them.
What Age Is Gen X?
Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen X ages are currently between 43 and 58. Often called the “Forgotten Generation”, Gen X are like the overlooked middle child wedged between the baby boomers born before them and the millennials and Gen Z who follow after.
Who Are Gen X?
They are mostly already at the peak of their career, have a home and a family. According to GWI’s Q3 2022 survey, they mostly sit in the high (33%) to medium (32%) income group, are married (72%), own a house (65%) and a car (73%). They are also in their prime years of contributing to the economy, often earning and spending more than other generations. According to Experian’s ‘The Formidable 40s report’, 41-45-year-olds were the highest earners in 2018, making £1107.11 and £873.35 a week in gross and net income respectively. They also spent £785.64 a week in 2019, again the highest among other generations.
Gen X Characteristics
Gen X are a powerful demographic. So, let’s deep dive into this generation to understand the finer nuances within their personalities and how that could potentially impact their purchase behaviour.
Gen X are cautious about their future. This could be because financial concern seems to have a direct correlation with age – the closer you are towards retirement age, the more you worry about your finances. As per GWI’s Q3 2021 and Q3 2022 data, Gen X are second after baby boomers to be concerned about their country’s economy (31%) and their personal finances (18%). Not only are they extremely concerned about their financial situation, but their perception of it has also worsened since 2021. In the same GWI report, Gen X’s pessimism around their country’s economy increased 30%, while concern around their personal finances increased 37% since Q3 2021. As mentioned, this scepticism could be due to the generation getting older, but recent economic turmoil is most likely also playing a part.
Even though this generation is concerned about their finances, they feel confident about supporting themselves for longer periods. According to GWI’s Zeitgeist October 2022 report, 70% of Gen X say they could support themselves with their savings for three months or more. However – unlike other generations – they feel they are unable to save as much as they want because of debt and volatile income. As per the International Longevity Centre UK’s report, 57% of Gen X are unable to save more towards their retirement because of multiple financial pressures. This generation arguably were impacted most from COVID-19 since there was an additional 91,000 unemployed, older people in 2021 than 12 months ago as reported by The Guardian.
Gen X seem to be extremely loyal towards the brands they like. According to a study by eMarketer, around 70% of US respondents and 30% from other English-speaking countries have a high affinity towards the brands they trust. However, they are less open to trying new brands and more than four in 10 consumers prefer to stick to the brands they like, reports the eMarketer study. This generation are also money-conscious – 88.6% of them would join loyalty programmes to save money and 71.2% to receive rewards, as found in this 2015 CROWDTWIST report.
Gen X are concerned about social and environmental issues and would want brands to reflect that. As per HubSpot’s 2022 US Consumer Trends Report, one in three Gen Xers want brands to take a stance on social issues like climate change, racial justice, affordable healthcare and income inequality. Their stance seems to have a significant impact on their purchase decision as well. As per the same report, 81% would like to purchase from brands who treat their employees well, 43% would like to buy a product made by a small business and 36% would like to purchase from a brand committed to diversity/inclusion.
This generation are highly perceptive and expect brands to genuinely care for the greater good. Hence, authenticity becomes a core part of their being. According to Stackla’s 2017 report, 85% of this generation seek authenticity when deciding which brands to support right behind millennials at 90%. That means, for brands to resonate with this generation, authenticity needs to be at the heart of all their initiatives – be it ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) or any other.
This is a generation who have spent their formative years without technology and only embraced it slowly at a later stage, less than millennials, but more than baby boomers. According to GWI’s Q3 2021 & Q3 2022 report, unsurprisingly, Facebook seems to be the most used platform among Gen X at 73%, followed by WhatsApp (62%) and Instagram (59%). Interestingly, short-form video content seems to be gaining favour among them with two out of five using it, states the same report. Likewise, messaging apps like Telegram (+10%) has also seen some of the biggest growth.
How to Tap Into Gen X?
Here are some simple tips to help you reach out to this forgotten generation.
Show them product value
While Gen X have enough money saved up, they are still concerned about their finances as they juggle their debts and mortgages amidst a sluggish global economy. This generation are also fiercely loyal towards the brands they like, meaning they are likely to stick to a brand if it’s a value product.
How to add product value
An effective way would be to offer them a loyalty programme with benefits like discounts/coupons, cashback/credit and free products. Customer surveys are also a good way to add value and show them that you care about their opinions. Brands like Aldi, Lidl and ASDA score well among this demographic because they provide convenient shopping experiences at affordable price points. As per Statista’s Q1 2023 report, Aldi (79%), Lidl (77%) and ASDA (74%) were Gen X’s top three favourite supermarket chains in the UK.
Show them authenticity
This generation care about authenticity and are particularly sensitive to what brands claim to do versus what they actually do. Make authenticity a key element in your marketing plan since they are less likely to respond to contrived marketing efforts.
How to create authentic content:
- Get the brand talking about real-world scenarios that this generation can relate to. Acknowledge the issues they are facing and show them that they are not alone while offering solutions to help
- Collaborate with Gen X influencers since they would resonate well with this generation. Same-age creators are great for targeted brand messaging
Get social with them
Gen X are digitally savvy consumers, shopping and browsing online. While Facebook might be their preferred platform, do not limit yourself there. For instance, TikTok’s popularity is growing among this generation, so leverage this to create content that has nostalgia and humour in it. Instagram is another useful platform where you can partner with age-specific influencers to create targeted, authentic posts.
Don’t neglect traditional media
While Gen X are digitally savvy, they are also a traditional cohort which means an omnichannel marketing strategy is the best way to reach them. For instance, you can create a campaign that starts anywhere on social media and then goes onto billboards across tube stations, outdoor furniture or shops having high foot traffic.
In short, don’t forget about Gen X as you build your marketing campaigns as this generation is loyal to brands, in their prime spending years and willing to spend on the brand they trust. If this generation fascinates you and you want to target them in your advertising efforts, then get in touch with us.