Generation X

While this generation may be the toughest to market to, they’ll be the first of the adults to try a new flavor or confectionery treat.
Gen X is not the most coveted of the marketing world—they are a skeptical bunch, typically under-impressed and reluctant to commit—especially to a brand. But even ignoring that stereotypical attitude, they haven’t attracted much marketing attention through the years—mostly because their buying power and population pale in comparison to the baby boomers before them and even now to the Millennial Generation (formerly thought of as Generation Y) after them.
Census Bureau figures show that at about 47 million people, Generation X won’t outnumber the boomers until about 2040 (38 million to 37 million), but of course by then, the Millennials will amount to about 73 million. So this generation will always be the “in-between” group.
Even their name is indicative of their alienation—anyone that tried to label them, they’d “X” them out.
But to not pay marketing attention to them is a mistake—especially now—when the oldest of the bunch have become parents, who are naturally spending more, especially on items (candy!) for their kids.
The 47 million Xers in this country also represent about $190 billion in spending power. And many of them resent the “slacker” label that has followed them since they were teens. So marketers who speak to this group in their own language and on their own terms, will be recognized. This group won’t promise a commitment to a brand, but they are often ready to try something new.
“This is a highly adventurous group—they are the early adopters of products,” says David Morrison, president of Philadelphia-based TwentySomething Inc., which specializes in marketing to Generation Xers. “They have the money, freedom, and the inclination to try new products and services—maybe they’re not the right market for high-end automobiles, but for everything else—certainly, wireless products, health and beauty aids, and yes, snack foods and candy—they are the consumers for early adoption.”
They are also a good group to perform market research on, as long as they are not talked down to. “This is a very savvy market,” says Morrison. “They have become very sophisticated as marketing itself has become more sophisticated. Generation X knows what a focus group is, for instance; you don’t have to explain it to them.
Marketers also need to consider that while this generation will try new things readily, they are also very fickle. Like children, they will move rapidly from one brand to the next in their constant desire to try new things. Candy marketers are therefore advised to try out new products on this X market, and then be ready to switch the focus to other groups, as perhaps the treat becomes more stable in the marketplace, thanks to the Xers word of mouth!
As for target media, Xers have been known to have “an extreme distrust for the news media,” according to Rodger Roeser, vice president of public relations for Justice & Young, a marketing firm based in Cincinnati. “A lot of it stems from the fact that their boomer parents taught them to question authority, and so they’re unimpressed by it,” he adds.
The Internet is a better source of media for Xers, but that’s also because they’re constantly monitoring it for their children (the Millennials). n
Measuring the Market (ages 25-39)
Population Size: 63 million
Percent of the Population: 22.3%
Percent Growth Forecast by 2010 (ages 20-44): 0.4%
Merchandising Mandates
• Gen Xers are the best early adopters, so target some new candies or new versions of candies specifically to them. They are especially willing to try new flavors of an old favorite.
• Remember many Xers are parents now, so targeting new kid candy to them is pertinent, too. They are early adopters for their children, as well
• Believe it or not, nostalgic candy will work with this crowd, too. You may think they’re too young to be nostalgic, or too fickle to have favorites, but that’s not the case, according to Morrison. "The reality is that with today’s socio-economic, political climate, this market yearns for safer, happier days," he says. "Surrounded by crime, job insecurity and dealing with the ramifications of 9/11, they can have a strong draw to nostalgic candy brands." Marketers would therefore be wise to bring these skeptics back to a time of innocence, comfort, and fun. Gen Xers see candy as an inexpensive way to get there.
Ages Now: 23-39
Outlook: Skeptical
Work Ethic: Balanced
View of Authority: Unimpressed
Relationships: Reluctant to commit
Life Perspective: Self
Compelling Messages of their Formative Era:
"Don’t count on it."
"Get real."
"Survive—stayin’ alive."
"Ask why?"
Source: Claire Raines Associates (Claire Raines is the author of "Connecting Generations.")