Submitted by Erin Pinckney
May 18, 2020

Erin Pinckney is Executive Director, Sales Marketing at Effectv


Against a backdrop of somber, inspirational commercials during the current pandemic, did I also just see RATT playing in someone’s kitchen during a Geico spot? I did, and for good reason. Now is the time to give your current brand and acquisition strategy another look, whether you’ve remained full-throttle with your advertising – as Geico has – or are planning your re-entry. 

Take a moment in this collective pause. Who are you targeting and what are you saying to them?

For years, marketers have put a great deal of strategic effort and much of their customer acquisition budgets into targeting the once-shiny object known as Generation Y, (aka Millennials, born 1981 to 1996). Done earnestly to create customers and loyalists within the vast demo, it also helped companies feel relevant and ‘leaned in’ to digital and social trends and pop culture. And while marketers have been busy stockpiling strategic eggs in the Millennial basket, they’ve neglected other key demos with greater (yes, greater) purchasing power. Boomers aside, I’m specifically talking about those born between 1965 and 1980 – otherwise known as Generation X.

The so-called latch-key “MTV generation” is outspending the over-celebrated Millennials by one-third annually, despite being a 14% smaller demo. Gen-X is also projected to surpass the population of Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) in the next eight years, resulting in spending power that trumps all other generations with an estimated $2.4 trillion dollars.

Also consider that the oldest Gen X-er still has an average of 10 years left in the workplace, with the youngest potentially working for another 25+. They are huge cultural tastemakers and influencers on both the people and company constructs around them, and--from Elon Musk to Laura Alber--make up more than 51% of leadership roles globally.

Quite simply, this self-sufficient and resourceful demo knows how to make things work. Made from scrappy, hands-on and helmet-free childhoods before play dates and participation trophies, these folks had to hunt down information in a real library and knew how to happily exist with three TV channels. 

Raised with the duality of having and having not, they’re adaptable to both scarcity and abundance. They witnessed the rise of technology from the cell phone to the Internet, so Gen-Xers are very tech-savvy without being tech-dependent. Also, unlike the generations that followed, they remain culturally affected instead of desensitized. All this, and they can destroy you in a game of Ms. Pac Man or Galaga with one hand, while simultaneously pre-ordering tickets to Top Gun: Maverick with the other.

While stereotyping or painting any demo cohort with a broad brush is foolish, a generation can be defined by shared experiences – what they did, watched, read, listened to and went through together.

And Gen-X is tuned-in. In fact, since the COVID-19 outbreak, Gen-Xers increased their broadcast TV viewing consumption more than any other age bracket.

So, what’s a marketer to do? First, if your current brand and customer acquisition strategy isn’t weighted appropriately towards a Gen-X demo, it’s time to pivot. 

Next, go deep within the demo. In this New TV ecosystem, today’s marketers have unprecedented access to new sources of data that transcend age and gender. Advertisers can use insights from vast amounts of demographic, psychographic and behavioral data to target precise customer segments, reaching them surgically with everything from podcast ads to addressable TV advertising.

Mid- and post-campaign data can then capture segmented audience response to creative, along with impression delivery, reach and frequency insights to guide your path.

Lastly, make sure you develop creative messaging that strikes an emotional chord and resonates with this generation’s collective sensibilities and experiences. Nostalgia can be a powerful currency and brands are recognizing that power. Recent examples include Comcast’s Xfinity 2019 holiday commercial featuring ET’s homecoming; Saint Archer Gold’s 2020 Super Bowl spot underpinned by Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience;” and the witty QuickBooks commercial featuring fictitious Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese.

The time is now to reexamine your targeting and messaging strategy. You may find that when it comes to unsurpassed spending power today, as our economy bounces back from the current health crisis and in the decade to come, X marks the spot.




Pew Research: Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers

Epsilon Research: Age Matters - A Guide to Cross-Generational Marketing

DDI Research: Generation X Leaders

MediaPost: We’re All Consuming More Media, But Our Choices (Including Video) Vary by Age



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