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Gen X Takes the Stage

Marketers haven’t historically chased Generation X consumers as their most coveted audience. Sandwiched between two larger demographics—baby boomers and millennials—Gen Xers are often called “the lost generation” when it comes to targeted campaigns. Yet these financially savvy shoppers born from 1965 to 1980 are worth getting to know. Here’s why.  

By the Numbers
Though they only make up 15% of the population for a total of 65 million people, Gen X are at the height of their spending power. According to federal figures, they’ve saved a staggering $13 trillion over the last few decades. Baby boomers still control 50% of all US household wealth, but Gen Xers are closing that gap with 29% net worth, as per numbers reported by the Federal Reserve in 2021. Compare that to millennials, who have just 6.4% of the household wealth distribution pie.

It therefore follows that Gen X is currently the best-positioned cohort to buy a home. Though pricing is at an all-time high due to lack of inventory plus cutthroat competition, Gen X is the only generation that can afford homes above the median price in 70 of the country’s most populated counties. “This generation can afford the highest-value homes in most counties,” said researchers at Point2, a real estate database. “No other generation even comes close, as millennials afford homes above the median price in only 34 counties, while Baby Boomers can do so in 11.”

Health Is Wealth
Gen X is getting older as a group, but they don’t cling to antiquated marketing that rejects wrinkles and gray hair. Instead, they gravitate toward affirmational campaigns that promote concepts of real beauty while speaking honestly about age-related health challenges. Horizon Media saw success with their “Let’s Talk Menopause” initiative that worked to destigmatize this life transition that happens to every woman, while Swedish-based TENA brand aimed to normalize conversations about incontinence. “When it comes to marketing, Gen Xers wants to see real people with real flaws—especially when overcoming taboos,” said Chelsey Weiss, VP at Barker agency. Brands can further approach this demographic with work that depicts people eating well, exercising regularly, and tackling health issues head-on, along with meditation and mindfulness-centered campaigns. Post-pandemic, more Gen X business leaders are introducing wellness policies in their places of work and creating novel opportunities for employees to stay both physically and mentally well.

Nostalgia for the Win
Though millennials and Gen Z can’t seem to get enough of all things ‘90s—from fashion staples like scrunchies and mom jeans to TV series reboots like Bel Air to snacks like Dunkaroos—Gen Xers lived through (and even came of age) during this decade. That’s why using 1980s and 1990s nostalgia to target the cohort is a winning strategy, as evidenced by the ad Uber Eats debuted at last year’s Super Bowl in which they reunited Wayne and Garth—aka, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey—in a Wayne’s World tribute spot.  Gen X is likewise being credited with the record-breaking sales thatTom Cruise’s latest movie, Top Gun: Maverick, is currently enjoying at the box office. It’s become one of the highest-grossing pandemic-era films, thanks hugely to Gen X patrons who loved the first series installment, Top Gun, which premiered in 1986. A remarkable 55% of the audience who saw the new movie during opening weekend was 35 or older, leading to over $160 million grossed during the first four days.

Though targeting younger demographics might hold more initial appeal, Gen X represents a potentially lucrative and untapped population segment. “They get often overlooked in marketing, but Gen Xers are at the prime of their lives, said Weiss. “They’re at their peak earning potential. They have established careers, they either have older children or are empty nesters. They’re looking to flex that newfound freedom. And they’re really open to new experiences.”