Gen X: Ready to Spend, but Snubbed by Marketers?
When it comes to marketing, Gen X is like the ignored middle child sandwiched between two larger and louder generations. However, it is also true that Gen X is more challenging to reach: Gen X individuals are not as cohesive in their identity, nor as unified in the way they like to receive messages as the other generations.
In our survey, “Gen X: The Money-to-Spend Generation,” 96 percent of survey respondents reported having money left over after paying for necessities — an average of $1,341 in disposable income each month. In fact, Gen X, whose 65 million members will turn 36 to 51 years of age in 2016, have disproportionately more spending power than any other generation. Yet most marketing is not targeting them. How do marketers get past this?
• For Gen X, it’s family first. Family is the most important part of Gen Xers’ lives, according to the survey. The majority of Gen Xers have immense responsibility; six in 10 reported that their family could not get by without their paychecks. Eighty-two percent of respondents expressed concerns about their children’s future and 70 percent of respondents shared concern about their parents’ or elderly relatives’ health. Almost two-thirds of Gen Xers said they spend more time — and money — on others than they do on themselves.
• Gen X seeks brands that offer value, convenience and trust. What resonates most for Gen X purchasers are most value for the money, and “best or highest quality in the category.” For convenience, a product’s ability to “make my life easier” was high on respondents’ list, at 81 percent. And where it comes to trust, brand familiarity (73 percent) and “recommendation by people I know” (63 percent) are what win Gen X hearts and minds over other information sources.
• Gen X struggles between saving and indulging. If they have some extra money at the end of the month, Gen Xers say they would balance it between spending and saving, according to the survey. Ninety percent of respondents love a bargain, while 82 percent are happy to do extra work to find one — as well as tell others about it. Nearly eight of 10 admit to spending a little extra to treat themselves once in a while.
• Marketing financial services is a harder sell than other areas for Gen X. Word of mouth came in as the No. 1 attention grabber and trust builder for technology, health and financial services categories. A distant second was content posted by friends on social media, and advertising on TV came in third. According to the survey, the least effective method were ads on social media.
Among the three categories, technology garnered the strongest ratings across all ways to attract Gen X attention and build trust, followed by health. However, financial services received lower scores than the other categories in grabbing attention and building trust, perhaps reflecting Gen X confidence issues in the area of financial decisions. The survey found just a quarter of Gen X respondents were “extremely confident” in their ability to make good financial decisions.
• Email and Facebook are best communications channels. Preferring more personalized communication, Gen Xers were more attached to email, with 82 percent checking daily or more often. As for social media, Facebook is king, with far fewer engaging on other platforms. One-third say it’s important that a brand engages them on social media. However, two-thirds say they would use a coupon texted to them from a brand or company, and more than half would be willing to promote products or services via social media in exchange for rewards.
Survey Methodology: The online survey was commissioned by Makovsky and fielded by Rutherford, NJ-based Russell Research, founded 1946, which designs and executes public opinion and thought leadership research. The sample included 505 members of Generation X (born 1965-1980) with annual household income of $50,000 and above (60% between $50K -$100K; 40% above $100K); 83% employed/self-employed.
Denise Vitola is the Managing Director of Makovsky, a New York-based independent integrated communications firm. Makovsky has agency partners with nearly 2,000 professionals in 100 cities through IPREX, the second largest worldwide public relations agency partnership, of which the firm is the founder.