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It’s time to stop ignoring gen X – the lost generation

Taking our name from Douglas Coupland’s 1991 book Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, there are around 13.9 million of us in the UK and 65 million in the US.  

Born between 1965 and 1980, gen X are those of us who bridge the gap between baby boomers and millennials, with the majority of us being children of the former and parents of the latter. Sandwiched between two much debated generations, we are akin to the often ignored or forgotten middle child.

Described as the latchkey generation, we were the kids left at home after school whilst it became the norm to have two working parents. With little adult supervision, we developed an individualistic, rebellious and independent mindset. Yet as teenagers, we were characterised as slackers – aimless youths with a cynical outlook on life.

We grew up in the 70s and 80s, a time of shifting societal values and emerging cultural trends which shaped a lot of what we cared about. One key influence was music. From punk, hip-hop, alternative rock and heavy metal to creating the generation-defining genre of grunge. Nirvana, Tupac, Oasis – our generation birthed some of the musical greats.

Gen X carried phones far too big to fit in our pockets. We lived in a world of advancing technology and rapid change, but a laptop was still a luxury we would have to wait years for. We witnessed strikes, economic volatility, the Thatcher government. We remember the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. We were the 20 somethings of the 90s, beginning our careers as the internet took off; careers which would ultimately weather the storm of the financial crisis in 2008.  

But why are we so often ignored?

Are we the generation that lost our sex appeal? Were we simply forgotten in the fracas between boomers and millennials that marketers are so clearly caught up in?

When it comes to advertising, we have faded into the background. But here’s why brands and marketers should pay us some attention.

We spend more

It was recently reported that generation X spends more than any other demographic, and a third more than their millennial counterparts. A study from Experian further emphasised this, revealing that Brits in their forties are the most influential cohort of consumers. Brands should remember the buying power of gen X, who are clearly a hugely significant demographic.

We’re redefining middle age

Generation X has opened the floodgates for youth culture to permeate into adulthood. On one hand, we are still young and eager to make a mark in society. On the other, we are the middle-aged adults who shoulder financial responsibilities and act as the primary support systems for both our parents and children. We are redefining what it means to grow old, skateboarding our way to the office whilst continuing to pay the bills.

We provide opportunities for omnichannel marketing

Straddling both the pre-digital boomer world and the tech savvy millennial world, Gen X are susceptible to traditional forms of advertising as well as digital campaigns. This provides marketers with a rich opportunity for omnichannel marketing.

However, as a Forbes points out, it’s vital to remember that we are “a generation of consumers who tend to want authenticity and clear-headed marketing without any fuzzy logic or lack of clarity.”

Gen X may be a generation that is overlooked, but throughout our lifetime we have protested for positive change and are continuing to have influence in more ways than one. Here at Relative Insight, our text analytics software can help you understand the subtle nuances in how different generations talk, helping you to engage with us gen Xers in a way that is both genuine and relevant.

Our generation is a powerhouse of consumers – earning, spending and contributing more to the economy than any other group. If you’re a brand, advertiser or retailer, don’t ignore us. You might regret it.

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