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Unlocking Loyalty with Gen X

Unlocking Loyalty with Gen X Article Featured Image

Marketers put a lot of focus on connecting with Gen Z—who are sometimes called zoomers—but older generations still drive much of our economy. This is the second installment of a three-part Generations series that explores how to cultivate the loyalty of baby boomers, members of Gen X, and millennials. We began with exploration of baby boomers. Now let’s focus on Gen X. 

The latchkey kids of the 1980s became the slackers of the 1990s and are now today’s business leaders. Generation X has persevered through decades of financial, cultural, and political change, but following the rules hasn’t paid off for them as well as it did for previous generations. According to a 2023 report from Mintel, almost three-fifths of American Gen Xers agree with the statement: “My life isn’t where I thought it would be at this point.” 

Paying attention to the overlooked generation

While the media focuses on the larger boomer and millennial generations, Gen Xers are climbing the corporate ladder, raising families, caring for aging parents, and planning for their retirement years.

Currently in their mid-forties to late fifties, and representing nearly 20% of the U.S. population, Gen X is smaller than the generations that came before and after them, but they wield significant purchasing power. Now in their prime earning years, Gen X spends more on essential categories—such as housing, clothing, dining out, and entertainment—than any other generation. 

Like the baby boomers before them and the millennials after, Gen Xers have unique preferences and expectations. Connecting with authentic messaging and delivering the brand experiences they desire is the key to earning their devotion. Let’s explore the best ways to reach this sometimes-forgotten generation with messaging, products, and experiences.

Prioritizing quality and convenience

A generation raised with significantly more freedom and autonomy than today’s kids, Gen Xers are resourceful, independent, and adept at managing their time. They navigated the dot com bust in the 1990s and the housing crisis and Great Recession of the early 2000s, but those events compromised their ability to build wealth. Financially responsible Gen Xers haven’t enjoyed the same level of wealth accumulation as the baby boomers before them. In fact, only 38% of Gen Xers report feeling they have a comfortable cushion in savings.

Now facing major financial events like helping their children pay for college and funding their own retirement, Gen Xers are pinched by competing financial goals. As such, they’re focused on big-picture value and convenience. They want nice things, but they want to feel responsible about their purchases. Gen Xers use search engines and social media to read product reviews and recommendations, and they compare prices. They’re budget conscious but prioritize quality at a competitive price rather than accepting lower quality at the cheapest price. 

Striving for balance

This is a generation walking the tightrope between competing responsibilities and goals in many ways. Focused on family but in the prime of their careers, Gen Xers seek balance between their work and home lives. As caretakers to their own kids—some of whom are now adults who have boomeranged back to the nest—members of Gen X are also increasingly responsible for the care of aging relatives. 

Seeking health and wealth

Beginning to face the physical changes of aging combined with the stress of caring for kids and parents while maintaining a career, Gen Xers are interested in wellness, longevity, and solutions for managing stress. 

With the oldest members of the generation approaching retirement age, they’re also motivated to balance their current financial obligations with the need to shore up their retirement savings and investments. 

Looking for meaningful connections

Brands can forge lasting connections with Gen Xers by leveraging data to create and share targeted, personalized, and authentic messaging. 

Be authentic and efficient. Gen Xers value their time. Give them products and offers that meet their current needs, and don’t waste their time with irrelevant offers or inauthentic content. 

  • Appeal to their nostalgic side. Gen Xers have a love for nostalgia. Appeal to their emotions by reminding them of familiar trends, experiences, and products that echo their younger years.
  • Get personal. Gen X craves personalization. Appeal to their sense of individualism with content and offers customized to their needs and preferences.
  • Support their health. Gen X is carrying the weight of caretaking for multiple generations—and starting to feel the effects of aging themselves. Connect with their desire to maintain physical and mental health.
  • Boost their wealth. Gen X is looking for ways to balance their day-to-day financial obligations with paying for college and saving for retirement. Connect them with products and offers that support their financial goals. 

Bridging the media gap

Gen X experienced an analog childhood before maneuvering through a digital adulthood. As a result, they’re engaged in a wide variety of both traditional and new media, bridging the gap between the baby boomers, who lean toward traditional media, and millennials, who favor digital media. 

Marketers should embrace a multichannel approach, blending the new media Gen Xers rely on with the traditional media for which they’ve shown a lasting affinity. 

Brands that find the right mix of media channels and work to craft authentic messages that appeal to Gen X’s values, needs, and preferences can engage this important generation and earn their lasting loyalty. 

Barb Olson is vice president, Strategic Services. For more than 30 years, The Lacek Group has been innovating the art and algorithms of brand devotion. We help world-class brands identify their highest-potential customers, engage them across channels throughout their life cycles, personalize each relationship for optimal long-term results, and measure the true effectiveness of those efforts.