Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Generation X and Marketing

Generation X is largely forgotten by marketers. Sure, we are a small group.

After all, it's why we're being pinpointed as a generation: those being born during the plummeting of the birth rate between approx. 1960 and 1979.  There are almost 4 times more Baby Boomers or Millennials. Targeting Generation X might be less profitable.
But there's something else: we X'ers are quite difficult to tune into. Almost only another X'er can. For who else shares our collective schizophrenic experience and taste?
On one hand we are the first generation to grow up in very good and stable economic times. On the other hand our childhood and adolescence was one of 'waiting for the bomb': the permanent, strange and tense atmosphere of the Cold War.  It has turned us into Punks AND Yups. You could call us slightly anarchistic Wall Street sharks with a conscience.
Just how many artists do we have in our ranks?  Basically everybody who organised a note or dance step in the 1980s. Sometimes it seemed that half of our classroom went on to become fashion designer, hat designer, choreographer, photographer or movie director. Courtesy of the booming economy: "Is that a safe profession"? was not that important a question.
For first of all, the economy was - and would obviously always remain - great. And secondly no day went by without a mention of a nuclear war so we could better fulfil our potential before tea time.
'No Future' as well as 'Always look on the bright side of life'.
It was that sense of danger, of futility, of seizing the day - and the melancholy - that made these artists good. And caused the cultural boom that was so much like today's technological one.
Minimalistic music, repetitive music, Punk, New Wave, Rap, Hip hop, Synthpop, Electro, Techno, House, New Beat... and that was just the music. All born out of a friction between comfort and pending doom, leaning more towards one or the other.
Do you spot a very classy and expensive store - with a subversive undertone? For sure the owner is an X'er. A wildly anarchistic online platform wrapped up in gloss? X. The group that is most critical at times of purchases but spends most on charity? X.
So, mister marketer, how do you target that? Unlike the Baby Boomers, you don't have the choice whether you want to speak to the progressives (hippies) or the conservatives. Generation X is both, at the very same moment.
Entrepeneurs with a heart, hearts with a capitalistic tic, anti-establishment politicians, housewives who read Nietzsche, Presidents with a Che Guevara T-shirt, CEO's of Apple coming out as gay or founders of Google having as motto: 'Don't be evil'.
So, marketer, good luck with that. Targeting Generation X means having a crack in your message. Your product must be glossy but not perfect (oh, god, we can't stand perfection, we grew up with the gently crackling LP, that wonderful black disc we had been saving for for so long, until we could finally and carefully lay it down on the felt and let the first note crush the lily in our soul - no instant gratification please!).
We need that crack. It's our womb. Our collective bell jar. Always hoping that the Russians love their children too.

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