A Love Letter to Gen Xers

by Monica Santi

 

I recently spent a long weekend in Sonoma wine country with friends I have known more than 30 years. We were all born between 1965-1967, which makes us the first wave of Generation X. Over a glass or two of wine, I mentioned that I had a blog article due on my 50th birthday. I wasn’t sure what to write about and asked for their thoughts. They unanimously agreed I should write about them or, rather, our generation.

We hear a lot about Baby Boomers nearing retirement and the impact it will have on the economy. On the other hand, we see articles every week about Millennials—how to work with them and how to market to them. What the heck happened to Gen X? On behalf of my friends and all Gen Xers, I am contributing this article to raise awareness for the forgotten middle child, Generation X.

Divorce and working moms created the latchkey children that comprise Generation X. We learned early on to be independent and self-starters. We rode the wave of technology, graduating from electric typewriters and liquid paper to computers and the age of connected devices. During the years we were starting our careers and saving for retirement, we had to weather the dotcom bubble of the 1980s and the recession of 2008. Pew Research estimates that Gen Xers lost 45% of their wealth between 2007-2009.

These collective experiences make Gen Xers a valuable addition to the workforce. We are independent, tech-savvy and pragmatic. As Baby Boomers retire, there are fewer Gen Xers available to assume key leadership roles. This will prove a recruiting challenge for companies in the coming years. Knowing how to appeal to this group will become critical.

According to a study by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry, 39% of respondents said that the ability to make a difference in an organization matters most to Gen Xers. In fact, making a difference is significantly more important to Gen Xers than the other factors measured in the study (job stability 16%, income 8%, promotion opportunities 7%, development opportunities 15% and being recognized 15%).

The purchasing power of Generation X is grossly overlooked. While we account for a smaller number of people than either the Boomers or the Millennials, Gen X represents 25% of all U.S. adults and 31% of total income dollars. Why don’t you see more articles about how to leverage the spending power of the Gen Xer? As a marketer and Gen Xer this baffles me.

How do you reach Gen Xers? Forrester Research reports that 48% of Gen Xers listen to the radio, 62% read newspapers and 85% have favorite TV shows. This means traditional tactics still have merit. That said, don’t pigeonhole Gen Xers as old school. We are digitally savvy and big consumers of email, social media, and videos. In fact, 89% of Gen Xers are as likely to connect with friends, family and coworkers online as they are in person.* When targeting this generation, use a combination of digital and traditional marketing tactics.

The bottom line: it pays employers and marketers to show some love for Generation X. We make valuable contributions to the organizations we work for and have significant buying power. Bonjour!

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