Marketing to the Middle Child: Generation X

Marketing to the Middle Child: Generation X

Generation X vs Millennials and non profits

This Spring we launched a survey to determine how Millennials engage with non profits. One of the most asked questions we receive from our non profit clients revolves around how to attract the Millennial generation.

As we are pulling all the survey information together for the report we’ll release later this summer, we started to think about all the hype surrounding this generation. While the generation may have been billed as the “participation trophy” generation and a generation of entitlement, it’s also the largest generation with a large net-worth. Regardless of the stereotypes, the millennial generation get top billing for marketers and advertisers.

On the flip side, the Baby Boomer generation continues to hold it’s own with net-worth and it’s use of health care related services continues to grow.

In between, you have the middle child, Generation X. Even a Pew Research article named this generation the “middle child”, you know, the one who gets forgotten. He’s not reaching all the milestones first like his older brother, the Baby Boomer generation. She’s not as a cute and energetic as her younger sister, the Millennials. Pew research found even Gen X’ers say there’s really nothing all that special about them.

For marketers, Gen X can be more difficult to reach than either the generation before or after and even more important to reach. While the generation makes up only 25% of the population, it carries almost 30% of the spending. This generation is spending not just on themselves but on their children and their parents. They are also as health conscience as the Baby Boomers generation (maybe even more so) and almost as tech savvy as the younger generation. In many ways, this middle-child generation has all the best traits of the generation ahead of them and behind them, plus they have the disposable income and need to spend the other two generations may not possess.  

Who are they?

If you are creating a non profit marketing campaign aimed at this generation, you need to know who they are. According to most information, people in this generation tend to be more independent (because they were latch-key kids) and cynical. They also have higher homeownership rates and married earlier than Millennials. Like Millennials, many Gen X’ers are very tech savvy. They grew up just before computers and the internet became mainstream. Many had to adjust to computers in their early careers or college. They also tend to hold on to traditional media. Many will read newspapers, watch network television and listen to the radio.

When you appeal to this generation’s concerns, being able to save enough for their retirement, take care of their health and put their children through college rank as the top issues keeping them up at night. For B2B marketers, this generation often makes up the majority of your buyers, making them key targets for your B2B inbound marketing campaigns.

Where do you reach them?

If you’re looking to reach this group on social media, be aware of where of they tend to gather:


(All this information was pulled from Sprout Social.)

You’re just as likely to find this generation watching a favorite network television show or listening to the radio during drive time. Beware, however, they have become pretty smart at avoiding advertising whether they stream television and movies via Hulu and Netflix or listen to XM radio and Pandora One. Newspapers aren’t going to be a top way to reach this generation, but consider the cost versus reach of other traditional advertising before you discard the idea completely.

>>Read Next: Grapevine Communication in the Digital World<<

What’s your message?

According to Bloomberg, this generation entered the workforce during the recession of the ‘90s, experienced the dotcom bubble just as their careers took off and watched the housing market crumble not long after taking out their first mortgage. Keeping their head above water means many missed the milestone of moving into middle-age entirely.

Because this age group tends to be more cynical and more concerned with where they are financially, don’t promise them more than you can deliver. Offer products and services to meet their most pressing needs of taking care of both their children and their parents. Deliver well on what you promise and you’ll likely find this generation to be more loyal than either of the other two, which means your ROI could actually be higher.

Whether you are creating a nonprofit marketing campaign to cultivate new donors or more volunteers or a B2B company trying to sell more widgets to a middled-aged purchaser, skipping over the lucrative Generation X could be detrimental to your organization. Just a like a parent who realized her middle child needs a little TLC, look at how you are reaching out to this forgotten generation. Test out a few ads playing to their needs and using their people. Find ways to interact with them both online and offline with consistent messages and fulfilled promises. You could be a lone voice speaking to a group of people your competition has forgotten.