6 Rules of Marketing to Generation X

Posted by Cheryl Sowa on Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Combining unique preferences, resentment and rebellious tendencies, and elaborate priorities, marketing to Generation X is quite a difficult task. Here are 6 rules of marketing to Generation X.
  1. Don't recycle the past. Generation X knows many popular marketing strategies that have worked for Baby Boomers. Gen X knows what has been used already, and in turn know what is a new and exciting way to grab their attention. 
  2. What's "In" may not be in with Gen X. This group is attracted to what is affordable and of great quality. Trends which don't break the bank are the ones that Gen X will lean towards. An example of well marketed trends to Gen X include the "Going Green" effort. Gen X is highly concerned about the environment and will try green trends.
  3. "Hard selling" is poor selling. Generation X finds "hard selling" harsh, rude, and obnoxious. They are turned off by this sales method. If you are going to pitch to Gen X, you need to do so in a manner that will get them to listen. Gen X prefers hearing who you are, what your business is, what you stand for, and the quality of your product before making a decision whether to trust your business.
  4. Honesty is the best policy. Manipulating Gen Xers is quite difficult, as they know the tricks and gimmicks that come along with sales. Be honest with them. Gen Xers will be more willing to buy or try your product if they TRUST you.
  5. Don't be too stiff. Gen Xers aren't the most flexible generation, but being too stiff will cause problems in the end. Some flexibility is important. If Gen Xers are on the fence about a purchase or commitment to your product or service, see what you can do to cater to their needs. Can you give them a free trial? Take off a few bucks? See what you can do.
  6. Don't be offensive. Gen X is compromised of a diverse group of people, each with different backgrounds and beliefs. Offensive or malicious ads targeted towards specific groups will turn off Gen X. Keep this in mind, especially if you are attempting humor in advertising.

"They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap on the TV dial. They hate yuppies, hippies, and druggies. They postpone marriage because they read divorce. They sneer at Range Rovers, Rolexes, and red suspenders. Things they hold dear are family life, local activism, national parks, penny loafers and mountain bikes. They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix."


This description, taken from a Time magazine cover story, describes Generation X. There are many misconceptions about Gen X and their values, morals, goals, and actions. For example, many believe that rocker Curt Cobain was the leader of Gen X and defined their generation. Although he was a part of Gen X, Cobain was not the leader, and in fact, he only spoke to a handful of people. Generation X is quite the complicated generation in terms of their attitudes, therefore making marketing difficult. Dissecting Gen X shows they both resent and rebel in their actions and attitudes. It is important to understand the difference between the two before finding ways to market to Gen X.

Resentment
Baby Boomers experienced a number of problems which were handed down to Generation X. These problems include debt, environmental issues, AIDS, homelessness, and divorce.These burdens were placed on the shoulders of Gen X and they couldn't do anything about it. This forced Gen X to feel a great deal of resentment for Baby Boomers. Gen X had to abandon the beliefs and examples they had while growing up of how to make, save, and spend money as a result of the new burdens. For the first time, a younger generation had less of a chance of achieving the standard of living as their parents. Generation X resented the burdens placed upon them, hindering the opportunities that were available.

Rebellion
Generation X is known for its rebellious tendencies. Can you blame them? The burdens Gen X faces, including debt and divorce, forced them to change the way they spend, save, and generate money. They had to stray away from what they saw their parents do, and found themselves frustrated that they couldn't achieve what their parents once did. To react on their frustrations, Gen X rebelled in ways they thought they would get their voices and frustrations heard. They rebelled in unique ways, causing a change of trends, actions, and values for their generation as a whole.

Generation X is quite the rambunctious group. Some of their distinct qualities include:
  • Gen Xers have a unique order of trust: themselves, friends, others, media. They listen to themselves first, then turn to their friends for feedback. Gen X trusts the media the least, putting the value on actual people's opinions rather than what the masses say.
  • Preferring straight talk instead of manipulation. Gen X is turned off by the manipulation of mass media, direct advertising, and hype. Marketing to them is a very difficult process, but it can be done with the right tools, mindset, and integrity.
  • Key issues set off Generation X and will help in making decisions on what companies, brands, or products they choose to purchase or support. Political, moral, and emotional issues are hot topics for Gen X and should only be used in marketing/advertising very cautiously. 
  • The priorities of a product of Gen X are affordability, quality, and last, trendy. Generation X will jump on a great deal for a product before spending money for some expensive trend.
  • Generation X will test the waters out with a new or different brand that they are used to. Their willingness to adventure for a new product is unique to their generation. Keep in mind, they place importance on affordability and quality.
  • Communication is KEY. Gen X wants to feel like they are not being grouped. Communicate to them on a personal level to grab their attention. For example, an email blast with their name in the header makes the recipient important. 

Generation X, simply put, is a complicated group of people with specific needs, wants, and values. How is your business going to stand out to Generation X? Think twice before being too trendy or offensive.

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Cheryl Sowa

Cheryl Sowa is a Public Relations Coordinator for America’s Best Companies. She also writes daily for the Small Business Center. Cheryl graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and obtained Bachelor degrees in English and Communications. Contact Cheryl

Tags: marketing, advertising, needs, communication, generation, gen x, generation x, resentment, rebellion

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Reader Comments


Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 12:07 PM
Sheila Glazov says:

Most informative post for a woman of the "War Baby or Traditionalist" generation. I appreciated all the details about the Generation X individuals, which will be most helpful for my PR and Marketign of my What Color Is Your Brain? book and workshops.
Thanks you,
Sheila Glazov

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 3:42 PM
Tony says:

Great Article. Definitely Agree...


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