The neglected middle child is growing old
Described as America’s neglected middle child by the Pew Research Center, bemoaned as overlooked by the BBC and dubbed forgotten by CNN Money, over four million Gen Xers born in 1965 turn fifty in 2015.
Yes, the clock has run out, Xers, check your mailbox for the AARP invitation package and some seriously good deals on things you never though you’d be ready for.
Not only are Gen Xers neglected, overlooked and forgotten, but marketers and demographers can’t seem to agree on their age range. Lately, some gurus have even skimmed off younger members to boost the importance of the Millennials.
But here we still use the classic definition: born 1965-1983. It’s easier to keep score when the goalposts stay in place.
We of the Boomer-Plus Generation™, the familiar Baby Boomers plus slightly older siblings (b. 1940-1945), welcome these new quinquagenerians – now there’s a ten dollar word to toss around at parties – to our secret hidden world. It’s a land that time, or at least Madison Avenue, forgot.
That’s because when Americans reach 50, most mainstream brands no longer target them. Supposedly, overnight, they become too old to change their buying habits. Older actors are purged from ads because the geezers are assumed to be in the bag anyway and over-the-hill imagery scares Millennials away.
Those born in 1965 will find a happy new home in the Boomer-Plus Generation, not only to escape fifty-phobia but also because they grew up in Boomer-world. The events that shaped Gen X lives were also part of the Boomers’ own continuing evolution.
This year, the Boomer-Plus generation boasts a population of 93 million consumers. The implication for disruptive advertisers is that learning how to open the door to effective engagement in the 50+ demographic just became more important by 4 million customers.
Born in 1965: life-shaping events that overlap with Boomer-world
Of course, consumers born in 1965 grew up with different imprinted experiences from those of Boomers whose earliest reference points were formed in the late 1940s through the mid-1960s.
- Adaptability … Constantly expecting and embracing change
- Fear of nuclear war … Until the USSR unraveled in 1990
- Kid-friendly television … Adult cable TV was far in the future
- Peter Pan syndrome … Lifelong emphasis on youthfulness
No generation gets to sail along without setbacks and difficulties. By the time those 1965 Gen X babies reached adulthood they had heard all about energy crises, recession, stagflation, the arms race and a threat of environmental disasters that seemed always to loom over the horizon.
But by the end of the 1980s, Doomsday had been postponed and America prospered. Like the Boomers before them, Gen X emerged confident that, despite life’s challenges, there was always a big, bright beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day (Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress.)
This confidence was not misplaced. As we posted last month, their future was shaped by six key Boomer-pioneered breakthroughs: cell phones, personal computers, import car brand domination over domestics, a fast food revolution, globalization and the greening of America.
Gen Xers: the long goodbye begins
Contrary to misconceptions about “tech-averse” Boomers, they pushed the big trends of the 1970s and 1980s past the tipping point. But it was Gen Xers who jumped in to help take the dialog to the next levels in the 1990s and 2000s.
Those first Gen Xers had sure come a long way when they turned 30 in 1995 – even further by 2005, as they hit 40. Since then they’ve Facebooked up, transitioned from iPhones 4 through 6, tweeted out a storm and built new companies to create mobile ad campaigns and online content.
So as 2015 rolls along it is naive to believe that, after relishing lives of unprecedented change, the adaptability gene of 50 year old Xers has gone the way of the Atari 800.
But naive is the default setting among conventional mainstream brands that ignore a bigger, more affluent market than Germany, or France, or the UK and way bigger than Canada and Australia combined.
The Boomer-Plus Generation is now 93 million strong, and controlling over 70% of U.S. household net worth, it is responsible for more than half of all U.S. consumer expenditures – including 52% of all the new cars sold in America.
Rather than wave goodbye to any more big-spending 50-year olds, maybe disruptive thinkers can figure out how to grab a bigger piece of all that adaptable buying power. Click and we’ll show you how.