Gen Xers In Marketing Struggling To Avoid The Boomers’ Fate

The prospect of a hanging

Hang em HighIt’s often been said nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging – our favorite humorist, Mark Twain, added the key words especially your own.

The great thing about Twain is the old chap has been dead for so long that quoting him sounds more sophisticated than dated.

Unlike, say, citing Woody Allen, Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal. It all depends on one’s generational reference points – the drivers of what’s hot and what’s not.

For instance, as we recently wrote, by the end of this year Madison Avenue will have dumped 8.5 million Gen Xers into Boot Hill simply because they turned fifty in 2015 and 2016. In ad biz terms, they are no longer part of the “coveted 18-49 demographic.”

But, recently, media and marketing’s 40-somethings have begun to see the writing on the wall; the race is on to avoid sharing oblivion with those odious Boomers. Sure, everyone knows they deserved it, but, please, not me!

Fans of old western movies know the script: the white hats defend the intended victim and try to calm the mob. A tense situation. It could go either way …

Gen X Home ownership 2005_2015For Gen Xers – born 1965-1981 – the scenario is playing out along familiar lines. The thumbs-down crowd questions their value – dissing their low assets and the lingering effects of a deprived, latchkey childhood – while boosters talk them up as an overlooked treasure trove of spending power.

  • Gen X Is The Most Screwed Generation When It Comes To Real Estate (HuffPost)
  • Housing Bust Lingers for Gen X (Wall Street Journal)
  • Reaching Generation X: Authenticity In Advertising (Nielsen)
  • 5 Reasons Marketers Have Largely Overlooked Generation X (ADWEEK)

Making the case for both Gen X and Boomers

The ADWEEK piece, by Xer Robert Klara – approaching the big 5-Oh himself – is a must-read … on two levels.

Level One, logic. Klara makes a strong case for rescuing Gen X from forgotten status, linking to a pretty cool video to extol its spending power. Based on a somewhat inflated age range of 35-54, we learn Gen X accounts for 31% of consumer spending.

This factoid was enough to encourage one courageous advertiser to actually target folks in their late forties/early fifties. Gasp! Disbelief! Applause! A Cannes Lion Award. Bien sûr.

H-hold income as of Sept 2015 dataLevel Two, unintended irony. While the 35-54 age group controls 31% of U.S. household net assets, no one quoted in the article seems aware that Americans aged 55-plus own 67%.

Left brain translation for young creatives: 67% is twice as much as 31%. Whoa, bro, that’s seriously ridiculous. Macro insane.

Clearly, if anyone deserves re-assessment by Madison Avenue’s fertile minds, it’s Boomers. However, hampered by adland’s herd mentality, that daring level of creativity is unlikely anytime soon.

So, for the foreseeable future, over four million Gen Xers will be run out of town each year as they turn fifty – exiled to the Boomer Badlands, the uncharted dead-zone out beyond the 18-49 demo.

Boomer Badlands: ghost town or portal to the prosperous 15th Nation?

The excuse for dropping consumers over age fifty from mainstream brand targeting is that we are no longer adaptable … unwilling to switch loyalties or to try new ideas. Worse, our uncool presence in ads scares young buyers away. Poor sensitive dears.

Boomer BadlandsWhich is why the Boomer Badlands are so convenient. We annoying old-timers stay out of sight, but renegade brands still sell us half of America’s goods and services through the barbed wire – cars, CPGs, electronics … you name it, we buy it.

Under cover of darkness, of course, when the skittish kiddies are asleep.

Until now, Gen Xers have been slow to speak up for Boomers. But, as they contemplate their own fiftieth birthdays, some are realizing life in the badlands isn’t so bad after all.

They’re discovering that, after a lifetime of embracing change, the 94 million members of the Boomer-Plus Generation™ born 1940-1966 are actually America’s most adaptable consumers. If we were a country it would be the 15th most populous on the planet – the 15th Nation – and the world’s third largest, most prosperous economy.

So, Gen X marketers, saddle up. We can blaze the trail for disruptives like you into the Boomer Badlands. It’s a big country, it’s wide open for business and you’ll feel welcome.

Opportunity_Golden Badlands

Boomer - neXt SM logo_MMOriginally published as a Boomer-Plus Consulting Group post; in September, 2017, we up-branded as Boomer / neXt to welcome the 4 million Gen Xers who join the Boomers in the 50+ space each year.

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