Gen Xers In Marketing Struggling To Avoid The Boomers’ Fate

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The prospect of a hanging

Hang em HighIt’s been said nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging – 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 Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal. It all depends on generational reference points – what’s hot and what’s not.

For instance, by the end of this year Madison Avenue will have buried 8.5 million Gen Xers on Boot Hill simply because they turned fifty in 2015 and 2016. In ad biz jargon, 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 their personal walls; the race is on to avoid sharing oblivion with those odious Boomers who were pushed out a few years ago when they hit 50. Sure, every Gen Xer 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 screenplay runs along familiar lines. The thumbs-down mob questions their value – dissing their low assets and the lingering effects of a deprived, latchkey childhood – while defenders 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 to make the case,  we learn Gen Xers age 35-54 account 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! A Cannes Lion Award. Peut-étre.

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%.

Translation for young creatives: 67% is twice as big 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 prosperity?

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 is bad enough but 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 we still buy half of America’s goods and services through the barbed wire – cars, CPGs, electronics … you name it, pardner, we buy it.

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

Until now, Gen Xers in marketing have been slow to speak up for Boomers. But as they contemplate their own fiftieth birthdays, some realize 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™ – Baby Boomers, those born 1940-1945 and Gen Xers over 50 – are actually America’s most adaptable consumers. If we were a country it would be the world’s third largest, most prosperous economy.

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