When it comes to advertising in this day and age, social media campaigns and influencer-based ones tend to be a hot favourite for many brands. However, as more tap into the medium to reach younger Gen Z consumers, it was found that only 5% of brand spend on influencer campaigns is targeted at Gen X individuals who were born between the years 1965 and 1980.
This is despite the fact that the age group, who would be between 42 and 57 today, make up almost a third or 27% of global spending and account for over a third or 31% of the population. The report also highlighted that Gen X makes up 28% of TikTok’s user base with a majority, 92%, of Gen X using social media every day.
In tandem, it was found that only one in 10 Gen X individuals feel represented in the advertising they see which questions why this group is often ignored by brands and the advertising industry. These were the results of Wavemaker’s recent study into the global Gen X consumer titled 'Finding the Gen X Factor'.
So why exactly are brands forgoing the crucial Gen X group? The answer could simply lie in the fact that brands tend to plan their advertising budgets around expanding their customer base and increasing their sales funnel, according to Jeffrey Lim, the founder and managing director at 8traordinary.
"In doing so, the default thinking often swings towards Millennials or Gen Zs or Gen Alphas as the prospects yet to be added to the brand’s customer base," he said. "The myopia is that if any brand does not have strong brand equity or brand loyalty, Gen Xs need to be wooed and engaged as well since they, like the rest, are bombarded by thousands of sales messages on a monthly basis.
Lim noted that with a largely higher spending power and an even stronger sense of loyalty if done right, Gen Xs present a good opportunity.
Adding to his point, Kimberley Olsen, co-founder of Yatta Workshop explained that many brands tend to be focused on reworking their marketing tactics to target Gen Z's in an attempt to keep their brands relevant and to gain awareness amongst the newer-to-brand demographics. So much so that they tend to forge the power of the "mass affluent" Gen X.
"It goes back to what your brand objectives are. Gen Xers are known to be extremely loyal to the brands they love, simply because it’s been tried and tested and they know what works for them," said Olsen. "They might need a little more convincing as to why they should try your brand out as opposed to one that they’re already happy with, and having your average influencer trying to convince them to do so just isn’t enough to cut it," she said, adding:
Putting in the effort to resonate with them is worth every cent spent, simply because of their power of spending and their strong word-of-mouth recommendations.
Olsen added that Gen X is a generation that relies on word-of-mouth marketing and so they tend to be able to see through the fluff when it comes to marketing.
"They've lived through the era of TVCs and radio jingles, so they’re not easily phased by fluffy tactics," she said, adding that Gen X's priorities tend to be different from other generations in terms of their lifestyles and how they choose to spend their money.
"They were raised by Boomers and are a little more reserved and mindful when it comes to their spending, however, gaining their trust results in repeated spend. They expect brands to show how they can contribute positively to their lifestyle which isn’t just always about them, but their families as well," she said.
Making influencer marketing work for Gen Xers
While dedicating effort and ad spend to Gen Xers is crucial, it is also important to target them in a way that will resonate. In the study by Wavemaker, it was found that typical influencer campaigns perform poorly with this group with Gen X experiencing 30% lower retention rates, 20% fewer interactions with the content and 47% lower impact on brand opinion than Gen Z and millennials.
This could be due to the fact that Gen Xers tend to exhibit a remarkable degree of brand loyalty which can then pose challenges when attempting to leverage influencers as a marketing strategy, according to Vin Ng, the director at influencer platform Spread-it Limited.
Compared to other demographics, Gen X individuals tend to be less influenced by the recommendations and endorsements of influencers, he said. Consequently, it becomes more difficult to fully capitalise on the potential impact of influencer marketing campaigns when targeting this particular generation.
"Marketers aiming to engage Gen X effectively must recognise and navigate this unique characteristic, employing alternative tactics and strategies to capture their attention and foster brand affinity," he said. "By understanding and addressing the distinct preferences and behaviours of this loyal demographic, brands can optimise their marketing efforts and cultivate a lasting connection with Gen X consumers."
When asked what his suggestions were when it comes to marketing to Gen X effectively, Ng suggested focusing on what Gen X individuals are comfortable with.
"Unlike younger generations, Gen X individuals grew up without the convenience of online shopping, resulting in a continued preference for in-store experiences. To effectively reach and engage this audience, offline promotional tactics, such as billboards and television advertisements, can be particularly effective," said Ng.
He explained that this is why a "significant portion" of television advertisements today are geared towards appealing to Gen X consumers. By recognising the specific preferences and behaviours of this demographic, brands can strategically allocate resources towards offline marketing initiatives that resonate with and capture the attention of Gen X, maximising their potential for success, he said.
Agreeing with him, Ken Cheung, co-founder and digital director at social media agency KREW DIGITAL said that a brand's marketing strategies will likely have to shift towards a more mass-targeted approach to meet social media interaction key performance indicators (KPIs).
"Instead of relying on one-way online message blasting, Gen X requires experiential marketing that offers interactive experiences and engagement," he said.
Saying that, not everyone agrees that influencer marketing is entirely dead when it comes to Gen Xers. Rather, it simply needs to be done correctly. Olsen explained that she knows many Gen Xers who follow influencers which is why choosing the right influencer is what matters.
"Having influencers that are too far apart from their age group results in an immediate disconnect, for the simple reason of finding their content unrelatable and unrealistic in their point of view," she said, noting that there is still a prominent pool of older influencers that hold weight amongst Gen Xers. However, she said:
An influencer strategy still needs to be complemented with a well-rounded marketing plan that covers other touch points that they are present on.
Lim added on by suggesting that brands focus less on fads when it comes to their marketing efforts but that they focus on authenticity and substance with an emphasis on storytelling, communication and engagement.
"They can create a brand loyalty loop that will result in repeated sales relationships. The word-of-mouth effect amongst the Gen Xs also presents a longer shelf life for brand trust," he said, adding that at the end of the day, influencer marketing forms the basics of the most powerful marketing tool which is word of mouth.
True enough, according to Wavemaker, one way brands can engage with Gen X consumers on social media, it said, is to leverage Gen X creators in their campaigns to achieve 43% more brand site visits and 73% higher relevance scores. Posts from Gen X creators also performed better due to more in-depth and informative content that is delivered in a softer tone compared to the shorter and direct tone employed by Gen Z. Interestingly, posts by Gen X creators are on average 75% longer than those of Gen Z and millennial creators who make 10 to 25 second long videos and 25 to 45 seconds long content respectively.
However, Gen X individuals are also open to content from younger and older generations with content by millennial influencers performing almost as well as content from fellow Gen X influencers.
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