The curious synergy between boomers and Gen Xers

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Who knew? But the fact is, there is synergy between our generation, born between 1946 and 1964, and the next generation of Gen Xers, born between ’65 and ’80. Mark Bradbury, senior director of “Insights and Integrated Marketing” at AARP, writes that Gen Xers will help baby boomers challenge ageism.

When the final chapter on Baby Boomers is written, what will emerge as one of the most important and lasting accomplishments is their impact on ageism, particularly in the marketing arena. Size, wealth, and a well-established tendency to create better lives as they age have enabled Baby Boomers to redefine life after 50 as a stage in which possibilities expand rather than retract. In doing so, Baby Boomers are the first generation to make it attractive, acceptable, and profitable for brands to target people over 50. Increasingly, we are seeing mainstream marketers doing so; new opportunities continue to arise.

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In 2015, for the first time in nearly two decades, Baby Boomers will have an ally in the fight against ageism, as Gen Xers begin entering the 50+ life stage and bring with them their own considerable consumer appeal. While stark differences have been drawn between Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, a closer examination of trailing edge Baby Boomers (ages 50-59) and Gen Xers reveals striking similarities that provide opportunities to successfully market to both groups simultaneously, and meaningfully.

Size & Spending Power
There are 40-million trailing-edge Baby Boomers, and they have the highest household income among all Americans. There are 50-million Gen Xers, and they rival younger Baby Boomers in household income. Combined, these two groups represent the largest, highest-spending consumer block in America.

Forever Young
Both groups refuse to define themselves by their age, and they ignore traditional limitations our society has placed on its aging citizens.

Blurred Generational Lines
According to a recent MetLife study on Gen X, nearly one-third of Gen Xers related more with the “Baby Boomer” label than with “Gen X.” A 2009 study that found that one-third of the youngest Baby Boomers actually prefer to describe themselves as Gen X.

Responsible Spending
While Baby Boomers are further along, both groups are at an age where they are balancing their desire to spend now and their need to save for retirement.

Experience Rules
Both groups prioritize consumer experience over materialism, although for different reasons. Trailing-edge Baby Boomers switched from valuing materialism to experiences, as a result of the economic downturn. Gen X has always prioritized experiences since their lives never held the promise of financial security.

old-vs-new

It is important to note that Gen X does not share some key Baby Boomer traits that 50+ marketers may have leveraged in the past, and marketing to these characteristics may alienate Gen X consumers.

Self-Importance
Media and marketers have conditioned Baby Boomers to feel important until they hit 50, whereas Gen X has typically been lampooned or ignored.

Optimistic Life Outlook
While optimism is hardwired into the Baby Boomer DNA, Gen Xers can be skeptical and pessimistic — no surprise given that their childhoods were marked by high divorce rates, and their adulthoods rocked by repeated economic crises.

Desire to Make a Difference
Whereas many younger Baby Boomers feel a personal responsibility to make society better for all, Gen Xers are not overly concerned with the mark they leave on society.

Baby Boomers have made considerable progress in promoting a positive image of life after 50, and marketers are starting to take note. Yet, there’s more work to be done. Too often, the word “old” is thrown around casually to discriminate against people simply on the basis of age.

As marketers, it is critical that we continue to educate brands on the value of marketing to consumers over age 50. With Gen X joining the fold next year, we must help brands understand the evolving opportunities of the valuable 50+ consumer landscape, and develop increasingly effective and efficient 50+ marketing strategies.

2 Comments

  1. The link is there, I always knew it and I’m so glad you posted about it, brilliant!

    But then, why should generations ever be at war with one another? I hate the idea. I’m a strong believer in getting along with all generations – we all have one essential thing in common: our HUMANITY!

  2. Great article–I have also personally experienced a kind of fun synergy with Gen Yers as well. I do credit the fact that the way many boomers are trying to keep up with today’s trends, music and technology has a great deal to do with that. As this article states, we are making “getting older” a less scary prospect for the generations that follow.

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