We've already gone over some ideas about creating emotional bonds with Millennials and their forebears, the Baby Boomers. In between the two, of course, is Generation X, or those born between 1965 and 1980, roughly. With Boomers having so much money and Millennials being such a dramatic departure from the norm, Xers are often forgotten by brands.
The basics: there are 49 million of them, representing around $200 billion in annual spending. They're the smallest group currently in the marketplace, yet it could be argued that no generation has had a greater impact on the current environment.Don't believe us? This is the generation that spawned the current entrepreneurship frenzy and created Google, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, and just about every web service you first got addicted to in the early aughts.
They're trying to take the baton from the Boomers while keeping up with the end-arounds the Millennials will surely execute. But how do brands connect with them on a meaningful, emotional level? We're not talking the standard loyalty tactics, but the behaviors businesses exhibit that make consumers go out of their way to interact with the brand, every day.
Creating emotional bonds is a lot different than creating sales. You can throw up a petting zoo outside your department store and call it "kid friendly" but it isn't going to do much for the parents you're trying to earn loyalty from. The traits have to be embedded in the brand, as well as out front.
The traits that spur emotional loyalty stem from the characteristics of their target audience. With that said, here are eight characteristics of Gen Xers and related ideas that brands can execute to keep this valuable generation in the fold.
Gen Xers are...
- Family Oriented - 70% of Gen X parents said their purchases revolve around their children. For a generation that saw their parents divorce around 50% of the time, family is important to Gen X. Brands don't have to install playgrounds at their physical locations, but small things - imagery of parents with their kids in emails, for example, or a "surprise" gift that they can immediately turn over to their kids - can connect with Gen Xers.
- Into Luxury - Gen X is buying some of the biggest homes in US history, and they spend around $5k on vacations each year. Experiential offers at upscale restaurants are the kind of reward they'll eat up (pun intended).
- Successful - Much like the Boomers before them, Xers are now moving into executive positions and peaking in their professional lives. This again calls for premium benefits, such as vacation vouchers or gift cards to high-end retailers.
- Still Scrapping - Despite all the aforementioned success, Gen X is still behind the eight ball generationally. For example, Gen X’s assets only double their debts, compared to 27 times the gap for Silents and four times the gap for Boomers. Half of them are behind on retirement savings and 7% aren't saving anything at all for retirement. Mobile coupons are a way to connect this group's financial weariness with their love of technology.
- Independent – As we mentioned with all of those popular web companies earlier, Gen X is full of entrepreneurs and self-starters. Don't feel like you need to spell things out - allow them to feel like the expert of your product/service. A good example of this is how most new smartphones don't come with an instruction booklet. Companies assume these folks are smart enough to figure it out, and they are (but still, build out lots of online resources for them to use).
- Realistic - Despite being in their early 50s at the oldest, Gen X has been to the bottom and back professionally - several times. The initial .com bubble bursting, 9/11, the 2008 recession...they've seen some stuff, man. Just 64% of them believe in the American dream, compared to scores in the 70s for Millennials and Boomers. Maybe more than any other generation, their loyalty is going to earned with every interaction - they don't need you to survive, but they'll keep brands along if they prove their value. Invest in stability - set a direction and stick with it.
- Weathered - As great as Amazon and eBay are, let's not forget the first major waves of .com companies Gen X started. Because of this they're better than others at smelling bull****. You'll recognize this advice from other generations: be straightforward and honest about what your product or service is. No more, no less.
- Just Getting Started - Initially accused of wanting to linger in perpetual adolescence, Xers maintain a strong sense of possibility, even as they enter midlife. They're willing to try new things and set new directions, and take along the brands that enable that behavior. The key here is a forward-moving brand. Ignore tradition and allow them to see themselves moving valiantly forward. Tomorrow is a better day.
Gen X has all the technology savvy and marketing awareness of Millennials but a tougher facade to cut through, not to mention more life experience to draw from. But they're on the cusp of peaking financially and career-wise, yet few brands are honing in on them. By mirroring their lifestyle characteristics in a brand, that brand will set itself up for success for years to come with Gen X.