Posted: June 29, 2017
Generation X overtook Baby Boomers as the dominant U.S. labor force in 2012. But within three years, Gen Xers' reign had ended, outstripped by Millennials' rise to become the nation's largest living generation. Xers (at 65 million) now trail Boomers (77 million) as well as Millennials (83 million) in core generational numbers.
That's not to say Xers should be disregarded. Quite the opposite, actually. They're often described as savvy and self-reliant — and at ages 37 to 52, centered in peak phases of earnings and career growth. What's more, Xers carry forward Boomer values of respect and work ethic without giving up much technology leverage in comparison to Millennials.
In short, there's a lot to be gained by focusing on the “cents" and sensibilities of Generation X.
Market research shows that while Xers account for 25 percent of the U.S. adult population, their spending power outranks all other generations. They hold 29 percent of estimated net worth and 31 percent of total income dollars.
In similar terms, Xers spend more on housing, clothing, dining, entertainment, and everything else – including healthcare – than either Boomers or Millennials. Tom Peyton, a vice president of advertising at Honday acknowledges this generation’s buying power: "Gen X is not quite as big and sexy [as millennials], but at the end of the day, they are prime time in their income.”
Additionally, the oldest members of the group will soon be formulating retirement plans. That outlook will encompass healthcare considerations not only for themselves, but for children and aging parents as well. As key familial decision-makers, Xers are placing trust in and building loyalty to brands that exemplify traits such as authenticity and sincerity.
Reaching Gen X
Analysis by Google adds further insight into the behavior of Xers and how marketers should approach them.
We know they've embraced technology their entire lives, but just how deep does that association go? A November 2016 study from Pixability says Xers account for more than 1.5 billion YouTube views every day.
When Google drilled down into that YouTube behavior, findings supported widely held assumptions about Xers. Most notably, they're self-starters, they like to be reminded of their youth, and perhaps most significantly they want to be “up" on what's happening around them.
“Staying relevant and not feeling left out is important to [Xers'] identity, so it makes sense that they turn to YouTube to keep a pulse on current events," observes Justine Bloome, a media strategy executive who helps major consumer brands connect with Gen X audiences.
Bloome adds that Xers are less likely than Millennials to ask others for opinions, so they're avid users of “DIY" videos. In fact, 73 percent of Xers watch YouTube to learn how to do something, and 64 percent buy products or services featured on DIY videos. That translates to an audience with the means and readiness to invest in their lives, a major part of which is their health and well-being.
Advisory firm Kantar Health's recently released National Health and Wellness Survey reveals that half of Xers say they are extremely or very knowledgeable about keeping themselves and their family members healthy. They actively gather healthcare information from a variety of sources, including doctors, pharma companies, medical journals, news websites, and books. And although they tend to be initially cynical and somewhat distrustful of authority, once Xers settle on a brand, they're more loyal than other generations.
One key to messaging specifically to Generation X is that they're the generation most likely to be in the "sandwich generation" position, caring both for aging parents and their own children at the same time. This means they're influencers of multiple generations, and as such, your messaging can reflect this expanded role to engage them around what really matters to them.
Maybe they live in a multi-generational household or feel stretched thin by advocating for parents with increasingly complex health conditions. Either way, when you show you understand their specific journey, your message is more likely to garner that loyalty.
Perhaps what matters most to Xers is openness in healthcare communications. Messages should be transparent, actionable, and evidence-based. When such information reaches Xers by way of physicians, it will be held in the highest regard.
Want to learn more about generational marketing? Read our post on Millennials. Or for more healthcare marketing tips and tactics, download our Healthcare Digital Marketing Toolkit.