- Audience Demographics
Building Trust with Gen X
To win over Generation X, move beyond aggressive sales tactics to a more subtle, experience-based interactions.
Sometimes the hard sell — direct, assertive language, aggressive deals, a focus on product, product, product — is appropriate. We’ve all seen hard-selling ads on TV and heard them on the radio. They can’t be missed. And they do work, some of the time.
But the hard sell isn’t the right approach for every brand, product, or consumer, and while most audiences will just tune out a hard sell that doesn’t appeal to them, there’s one demographic that will be put off by hard-selling ads and marketing “tactics” — both in online digital marketing and traditional media — Generation X.
Who Is Generation X? And Why Are They so Skeptical?
Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X grew up in an analog world and came of age in the digital era. As consumers, they are skeptical and brand loyal customers at the same time, while demanding social responsibility from the brands they buy. They also demand facts, reviews, and other “hard” information before making major purchases, and they’ll check those facts.
Famously sarcastic and a touch cynical, Generation X grew up in times that made them skeptical of authority and pushy, overtly “sales-y” messaging. This could be because of the world they grew up in, with successive political and corporate scandals — Watergate, Iran-Contra, Enron, Three Mile Island — demonstrating again and again that neither government nor business was particularly trustworthy.
All of this makes Gen X a terrible audience for the hard sell approach — but because this generation also controls about 30% of the United States’ total wealth, they also represent a tremendous opportunity for your brand. Gen X is also deeply brand-loyal, meaning that once your brand earns their trust, they’ll likely have customers for life.
What Works with Generation X?
Skeptical Generation Xers are not going to believe your marketing claims without evidence. They’re research-oriented, and “they’re going to read reviews, compare prices, and look for the best deals before they make a purchase.” What does work with Gen X consumers?
Value, information, and — most important — authenticity, according to a recent Forbes article.
“Gen X’s famed skepticism translates to a real dislike of shallow brand promises,” the article explains. A brand has to be able to back up its claims, or it will lose Gen Xers’ trust. Other research agrees: Products need to be best in class, prices must be competitive, and customer service genuine and helpful.
“The best way to win over Gen X is with honest, genuine messaging that reflects their lived experiences,” Forbes continues. “The reward for authentically connecting with this overlooked generation is a potential lifetime of brand loyalty.”
Key marketing strategies that can be used to connect with Generation X include the following:
Gen X are information-oriented; satisfy that need for facts, detail, how-to’s and the like rather than just selling.
Now middle-aged, Gen Xers are in the prime of life for nostalgic appeals and references to the culture, fashion, trends, and events of their youth.
Quality & Value
Promote the durability, reliability, and long-term benefits of your products or services to these value-minded consumers.
Convenience & Efficiency
Gen X wants to know how your product or service can save them time, simplify chores, or make tasks more efficient.
As a family oriented generation, emphasize how they can balance career and family by using your product or service.
Use Reviews & Testimonials
These consumers study positive reviews and testimonials to see how products and services align with their needs.
How Can Experiential Marketing Reach Gen Xers?
By allowing the audience to explore a brand firsthand, experiential marketing offers a subtler, more engaging approach to skeptical consumers than traditional harder-sell marketing. Because Gen X values authenticity, transparency, and information, experiential marketing can be a great fit because it allows the audience to interact with a brand and draw its own conclusions. And Generation X’s appreciation for fun and unconventionality makes them especially receptive to immersive experiences.
“When developing experiential campaigns for Gen X, feel free to take a more unconventional approach,” explains one event-staffing agency, “as this generation will appreciate you showing them why you value them.”
Immersive experiences that include interactive activities and sensory stimulation are especially appealing — particularly if Gen Xers can share the experience with their kids. Experiential marketing leaves room for nostalgia, storytelling, and personalization, components prized by older consumers like Gen X.
Some examples of how brands created immersive experiences that appealed to Gen X consumers:
LEGO brought a family roadshow to shopping malls, filled with LEGO scenery, kid-friendly movies, life-size characters, storytelling, and more.
Eight O’Clock Coffee & Friends
Eight O’Clock partnered with Warner Bros. to create a Central Perk pop-up in New York.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” Airbnb, Will Smith, and the house’s owner teamed up, decorating the house with Fresh Prince gear and offering it up as an Airbnb rental for only $30 a night for the campaign.
In Amsterdam, candy brand Kit Kat offered a wi-fi free zone to offer customers a disconnected experience reminiscent of the pre-cellphone, pre-internet era.
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst Brewing Company partnered with a historic roadside motel to give guests an immersive experience in rooms designed around PBR themes: Dive Bar, Arcade and Rec Room. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a brand tightly associated with Gen X’s youthful partying, the Dive Bar room sold out quickly.
Promobile Marketing is a dynamic experiential marketing agency based in New York City. For over a decade, Promobile Marketing has collaborated with a range of brands—from budding startups to major CPG brands—on immersive marketing campaigns. Get in touch to discuss your next project.