Marketing to Gen X: Finding the Lost Generation 

10 Nov, 2023

While boomers and Gen Z are clashing on social media and Gen Y are doing their best to rid themselves of their ‘snowflake’ label, Gen X are quietly in the background, getting on with things. As the one generation that straddles the old and the new in terms of technology, it’s no wonder they’ve come to be known as ‘the lost generation’.

And yet with Gen X currently aged between 43 and 58, they’re a group that’s in the prime of their life, with prime spending power too. Which begs the question, shouldn’t companies be on a mission to find the lost generation, and actively market to them? Spoiler alert: yes they should. And here’s why. 

Gen X

Who is Gen X?

Simply put, Gen X is the generation between the baby boomers and Gen Y – those born in the years 1965 – 1980. And it’s their positioning between two prominent generations (post-WWII and the tech-savvy) that has marked them as the lost or seemingly forgotten generation.

With only 65 million people in the US as of 2022 (as opposed to 70 million boomers, and 72 million millennials) Gen X is one of the smallest generations in comparison to others. But that doesn’t mean they can afford to be ignored. With 29% estimated net worth dollars and 31% total income dollars (according to the American Marketing Association), their spending power is impressive, and worth harnessing.  

Forget about this generation, and you may as well forget about your own profitability at the same time. Because as every treasure map will tell you, X marks the spot. 

What to keep in mind when marketing to Gen Xers

Before you set out to start marketing to Gen X in every way possible, take a beat. You’ll need to understand exactly who Gen Xers are first, in order to craft a successful marketing strategy.

1. They’re nostalgic

Gen X 80s nostalgia

They won’t bore you with tales of how they walked to school in 10 feet of snow, but they will have a fondness for the good old days and simpler times. Much of what we’re exposed to in today’s fashion and music has come directly from 80s and 90s pop culture, right when Generation Xers were growing up – and it’s this foundation you can build on. 

Times change but if there’s a way for Gen Xers to hold onto the familiar and recapture the past, they’ll take it. And that’s where your marketing tactics come in. 

2. They’re loyal 

Loyalty programmes for Gen X

More so than other generations, in fact, making them a valuable customer base to have on your side.

So how do you capitalize on this to ensure repeat customers? Two words – loyalty programs. According to a report from Oracle, 71% of Gen X customers said that their brand choices would be influenced by loyalty programs. Making this a powerful tool, and one of the cornerstones of Gen X marketing. So if you’re able to show your appreciation for Gen Xers through loyalty points, freebies, giveaways and other perks, you’ll tap into their buying power and you’ll have the brand loyalty you’re looking for.  

3. They’re responsible

Gen X cares about social responsibility

Maybe more so than any other generation. Because they had to be. Generation X were the kids who came home from school while their parents were at work – the original latchkey kids. So they’re staunchly independent, and they’re used to looking after themselves. Which is where their spirit of social responsibility and awareness comes from, and why brands that tap into this have hit the jackpot.

While the younger generations have a sense of social responsibility, don’t forget that Gen Xers do too. Which is why brands that show how they’re making the world a better place will have more success when marketing to Gen X. If you can show that you care about issues like gender, violence, poverty, racism and more, Gen X will start to care about you. 

4. They’re split. Technology-wise, that is

Tech influecnes, Gen X

Gen Xers are an interesting case study. They remember using landlines and rotary phones, and now they have the latest smartphones. They recall the jarring screech of dial-up internet, and now they use wi-fi like they were born with it. Having gone from huge desktop and personal computers to the sleekest of laptops and iPads, they’re a generation that straddles technological eras, and falls into two groups at the same time. 

There are those who grew up with technology (digital natives) and those who didn’t (digital immigrants). And it’s this very split that makes marketers avoid talking to Gen X in the first place. Why have two conversations with Gen Xers when you could be having a much simpler one with another target market? 

The answer – because Gen X makes up almost 20% of the US economy. Which means no matter how many conversations you’re having, Gen X is a group you absolutely want to talk to.

How to market to Gen X

So, with these characteristics in mind, what’s the best way to go about marketing to Gen X?

1. Talk to them

Marketers rarely do – these days it’s all about Gen Z or even Gen Alpha – the young up-and-comers. No one talks to the mid-to-late 40s or early 50s crowd, and that’s how your brand can differentiate itself.

Whichever marketing channels you use, from social platforms to digital marketing channels and even traditional advertising, make sure Gen X is part of your brand’s conversation. Acknowledge their state of life personally or professionally, and make sure they feel seen and heard. Because having that conversation with them will make many Gen Xers stop and listen. 

2. Be authentic

Authentic communication

It’s great that you’re choosing to acknowledge Gen X in your marketing, but don’t do it in a way that rings false. Gen X might not have grown up with wi-fi and AI but they’re still super savvy, and they can tell when they’re being paid lip service. And when they’re being sold to.

Don’t believe us? Then believe the stats. According to a Salesforce study, 63% of Gen X consumers value authenticity from companies, while 61% feel that companies aren’t authentic enough. So what’s the answer? Aim for transparency and honesty rather than gimmicks and slick marketing, and you’ll cultivate a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding.

3. Go social

Gen X might be in their 40s and 50s but that doesn’t mean they’re technological dinosaurs. In fact they’ve adapted admirably to digital platforms. They might not know all the ins and outs of Snapchat, but they’re still pretty handy on social media. Which we’ve got the facts to prove:

  • 70% of Gen X access social media via their smartphones, and spend almost 2 hours a day on various platforms. 
  • 81% of Gen X are on Facebook, and 65% on YouTube – the top two social media platforms for this audience.
  • 40% of Gen X use social media to connect with brands. 

Gen X might use social media in different ways to their younger counterparts, but they’re still there regardless. So whether you do it with a heart or a like, it’s time you started reacting to them.

4. Send an email

Do people actually appreciate emails anymore? According to Blucore, 72% of Gen Xers do, which means an email marketing campaign should form part of your marketing strategy. While it might seem more old school than cool, Gen X consumers are all about emails. So if you’ve got a message to share or a discount to offer, Gen Xers will see it, and engage with it. 

That’s your first win. Your second is that email marketing is cost-effective and eco-friendly. Add a video, some customer testimonials or positive reviews, personalize your offering, and include a coupon if you can – all marketing tactics that Gen X will respond to. Hit send and see your numbers skyrocket. 

5. Emphasize peace of mind 

How are you thinking of marketing to Gen X? Will you go digital with a social media platform, email or video marketing campaign? Or will you choose a more traditional route like TV or direct mail? Whichever direction you go in, security and peace of mind are always key messages to bring through.

That’s because while other generations are making their voices heard loudly, Gen X is in the background getting on with their lives. They’re working their jobs, paying bills and raising families, and the future is very much a concern. 

So how do you go about giving them peace of mind? You recognize the challenges they face, and you offer stability and reliability. Whether that comes in the form of customer reviews or testimonials, or an offer not to sell to them, but to partner with them, you’ll reap the very real rewards. 

Gen X is cool.

Understanding Gen X marketing strategies

In a digital world, Gen X are the last outliers of analog – the generation bridging the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. They remember when MTV played actual music videos, when you only watched one episode of a series a week, and when floppy disks were a real thing, not just an icon in Word. Which might sound funny (and is), but what’s serious about Gen X is the money they have to spend, and the opportunities you’ll be losing out on if you don’t harness their very real potential. 

You may already know how to market towards Gen Y and Gen Z, but where does Gen X fit into your long-term plans? If you want to tap into this market’s purchasing power, that’s a question you’ll need to find an answer for, and soon.