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US Marketing to Generation X market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Marketing to Generation X market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

  • Generation X: internet users aged 40-51

This Report is the third in a series of four that focuses on marketing to the key generations. Findings in this Report can be supplemented by analysis presented in Mintel’s Marketing to the iGeneration – US, April 2016, Marketing to Millennials – US, May 2016 and the forthcoming Marketing to Baby Boomers – US, July 2016.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Dana Macke, a leading analyst in the Lifestyle & Leisure sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Generation X is often overlooked, bookended by larger generational groups on either side (Baby Boomers and Millennials). However, in the middle stages of their life, Gen Xers are facing their own unique challenges. They are fighting a financial war on two fronts – paying off debt, and saving for the future. Many still have children in the house, but others are empty nesters (or will be soon enough). Gen Xers are discovering that now is the time to refocus efforts on their personal goals – concerned with getting their health and financial affairs in order over the next decade. Dana Macke
Associate Director - Lifestyles & Leisure

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Who are Generation X?
          • Figure 1: Share of US population by generation, 2016 
        • Why are Gen Xers an important target?
          • What makes Gen X unique?
            • The issues
              • Gen X men and women have different self-perceptions
                • Figure 2: Generation X’s perceptions of themselves, by gender, February 2016
              • Health and money management are top goals for Gen X
                • Figure 3: Future goals, February 2016
              • The opportunities
                • Women looking to the future
                  • Figure 4: Select future goals, by gender, February 2016
                • Aging is more of a concern for younger Gen Xers
                  • Figure 5: Attitudes toward the future - aging, by age, February 2016
                • Gen X lags Millennials in their use of alternative services
                  • Figure 6: Gen X behaviors, indexed to all, February 2016
                • What it means
                • The Generation X Market – What You Need to Know

                  • Generation X outnumbered by Baby Boomers and Millennials
                    • Gen X reflects the average in terms of racial diversity
                      • Similar to previous generations, Gen Xers are likely married
                        • Education a priority, but not all it was promised
                          • Gen X disproportionately affected by housing collapse
                          • Generation X by the Numbers

                            • Generation X is a small and shrinking population segment
                              • Figure 7: Share of US population by generation, 2016 
                            • Gen X reflects the racial diversity of the total US population
                              • Figure 8: Generations, by race and Hispanic origin, 2016
                              • Figure 9: Sources of Hispanic population growth, by decade, in millions, 1970s-2014
                            • Wide majority of Gen Xers are married or divorced
                              • Figure 10: Marital status, by age, 2015
                            • Educated Gen Xers are less optimistic about their degrees vs Millennials
                              • Figure 11: Level of education completed, by generation, March 2016
                            • Gen Xers unlikely to be home alone
                              • Figure 12: Single-person households as a percent of total households by generation, 2015
                            • Gen Xers are in their prime earning years
                              • Figure 13: Median household income, by age of householder, in thousands, 2014
                              • Figure 14: How extra money is spent, by generation, January 2016
                            • Gen X still recovering from the housing bust
                              • Figure 15: Rate of homeownership – difference from historical (1994-2004) average, by age group, 2005 and 2015
                          • Key Trends – What You Need to Know

                            • Outdoor brands look to connect with Gen Xers
                              • Gen X parents respond to ads featuring growing children
                                • Networks reach out to viewers attached to the cord
                                  • Gen X looking for assistance meeting financial goals
                                    • Many markets have overlooked Gen X
                                      • Easy-to-use tech, low-cost health products can find a Gen X audience
                                      • What’s Working

                                        • Marketers drive Gen Xers outdoors
                                          • Figure 16: “The Weber Experience – Peter from Georgia,” video, 2013
                                          • Figure 17: Start Things Off Right – Peppers and Kids – Life Starts Here, Feb 2016
                                        • Auto makers seek out Gen X parents
                                          • Figure 18: First Date – Hyundai Super Bowl Commercial, February 2016
                                          • Figure 19: Subaru Forester, Subaru Commercial, Making Memories (Extended), 2016
                                          • Figure 20: Infiniti QX60 – Pool Party, April 2016
                                        • Generation X relates to ads that show real people, with real flaws
                                          • Figure 21: Depend Real Stories, April 2016
                                          • Figure 22: Organic Balance: Real Morning Report, April 2016
                                          • Figure 23: Our Song Commercial, UnitedHealthcare, March 2015
                                        • Media outlets develop original programming targeted to Gen X
                                          • Financial services prep Gen X with educational videos and realistic ads
                                            • Figure 24: Short-term financial goals, October 2015
                                            • Figure 25: Precious Few commercial, March 2016
                                        • What’s Not Working

                                          • Generation X mostly overlooked as a key demo
                                            • Contraceptive brands fail to make a strong case beyond Millennials
                                              • Figure 26: Contraceptive use, by generation, April 2015
                                            • Middle of the road retailers fall flat to fast fashion
                                            • What’s Next

                                              • Gen X can provide growth for digital platforms
                                                • Health concerns take center stage
                                                  • Gen X in need of a financial plan
                                                  • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                    • Gen X feel both responsible and realistic
                                                      • Health and finance dominate future goals
                                                        • Gen X feel comfortable in the present, yet optimistic for the future
                                                          • Gen X occupies a middle ground
                                                            • Compared to Millennials, Gen X lag on digital behaviors
                                                              • Gen X less reflected in advertising, and less interested
                                                                • All ages shopping online
                                                                • Gen X Perceptions of their Generation

                                                                    • “Slacker” generation chooses “responsible” as their key attribute
                                                                      • Figure 27: How Generation X sees themselves, index to all, February 2016
                                                                    • Gen Xers see others in their generation as similar to themselves
                                                                      • Methodology
                                                                        • Figure 28: Correspondence Analysis – Perceptions of Generation X, February 2016
                                                                        • Figure 29: Perceptions of Generation X, February 2016
                                                                      • Women see themselves as compassionate; men more well informed
                                                                        • Figure 30: Generation X’s perceptions of themselves, by gender, February 2016
                                                                      • Black Gen Xers more confident than other groups
                                                                        • Figure 31: Generation X’s perceptions of themselves, by race, February 2016
                                                                    • Gen X – The Next Decade

                                                                        • Health is the top concern for Gen X
                                                                          • Figure 32: Future goals, February 2016
                                                                        • Women set a variety of long-term goals
                                                                          • Figure 33: Select future goals, by gender, February 2016
                                                                        • Urban dwellers more concerned with trends
                                                                          • Figure 34: Select future goals, by area, February 2016
                                                                        • Parents looking for time management
                                                                          • Figure 35: Future goals, by parental status, February 2016
                                                                      • Attitudes toward the Future

                                                                          • Overall, Generation X is optimistic
                                                                            • Figure 36: Attitudes toward the future - status, February 2016
                                                                          • Aging may be a concern, but not necessarily a fear
                                                                            • Figure 37: Attitudes toward the future - aging, February 2016
                                                                          • Majority of Gen X have a good handle on technology
                                                                            • Figure 38: Attitudes toward the future - technology, February 2016
                                                                        • How Generation X Views Society

                                                                            • Generation X shows moderate support for social change
                                                                              • Figure 39: Views on society – all issues, by generation, February 2016
                                                                            • Generation X shows mild support for changing family dynamics
                                                                              • Figure 40: Generation x views on society – family composition, February 2016
                                                                            • Gen Xers show lukewarm support for a variety of issues
                                                                              • Figure 41: Generation X views on society – Social change, February 2016
                                                                            • Gen X women more accepting of change
                                                                              • Figure 42: Generation X views on society – Social change, by gender, February 2016
                                                                          • Gen X Behaviors

                                                                              • Gen X lags behind digital leaders, Millennials
                                                                                • Figure 43: Gen X behaviors, February 2016
                                                                              • Generations separated by language
                                                                                • Figure 44: Gen X behaviors, communicating with images, by generation, February 2016
                                                                              • Affluent Gen Xers have more digital savvy
                                                                                • Figure 45: Gen X behaviors, by household income, February 2016
                                                                              • Men and women have similar digital habits
                                                                                • Figure 46: Gen X behaviors, by gender, February 2016
                                                                              • Western Gen Xers more familiar with alternative services
                                                                                • Figure 47: Gen X behaviors, by region, February 2016
                                                                            • Gen X Marketing Preferences

                                                                                • Generation X is less interested in most types of advertising
                                                                                  • Figure 48: Marketing preferences, February 2016
                                                                                  • Figure 49: Marketing preferences, Generation X indexed to all, February 2016
                                                                                • Women want it all, and more
                                                                                  • Figure 50: Marketing preferences, Generation X and Millennials, by gender, February 2016
                                                                                • Urban Gen Xers more taken with aspirational ads
                                                                                  • Figure 51: Marketing preferences, by area, February 2016
                                                                                • Gen X parents more engaged in ads, overall
                                                                                  • Figure 52: Marketing preferences, by parental status, February 2016
                                                                              • Attitudes toward Shopping, Trends, and Advertising

                                                                                  • Online reviews important to all generations
                                                                                      • Figure 53: Attitudes toward shopping, by generation, February 2016
                                                                                    • Gen Xers decidedly less “connected” than younger generations
                                                                                      • Figure 54: Attitudes toward trends, by generation, February 2016
                                                                                    • Gen X are so over the Millennial generation
                                                                                      • Figure 55: Attitudes toward advertising, Generation X indexed to all, February 2016
                                                                                    • Advertisers more in-step with parents
                                                                                      • Figure 56: Attitudes toward advertising portrayals, by parental status, February 2016
                                                                                    • Free shipping more important to women, parents, and affluent Gen Xers
                                                                                      • Figure 57: Attitudes toward shipping costs, by key demographics, February 2016
                                                                                  • If Gen X Won the Lottery

                                                                                      • Like most, Gen X dreams of vacation
                                                                                        • Figure 58: How lottery winnings would be spent, February 2016
                                                                                      • Generation X will take the lump sum – spending on cars and homes
                                                                                        • Figure 59: How lottery winnings would be spent, by generation, February 2016
                                                                                      • Black lottery winners invest in their cars and homes
                                                                                        • Figure 60: Lottery winnings, by race, February 2016
                                                                                      • High- and low-income lottery winners would spend similarly
                                                                                        • Figure 61: Lottery winnings, by household income, February 2016
                                                                                    • Willingness to Purchase Online

                                                                                        • Opportunity for online retailers to target Gen X
                                                                                          • Figure 62: Willingness to purchase online, February 2016
                                                                                        • Parents are key audience for online retailers
                                                                                          • Figure 63: Willingness to purchase online, by parental status, February 2016
                                                                                        • Opportunity to capture a male audience for online food and beverage
                                                                                          • Figure 64: Willingness to purchase online, by gender, February 2016
                                                                                      • Gen X Perceptions of Quality

                                                                                          • Gen X not swayed by fancy packaging
                                                                                            • Figure 65: Perceptions of quality, Generation X indexed to all, February 2016
                                                                                          • Women more receptive to communications around quality
                                                                                            • Figure 66: Perceptions of quality, by gender, February 2016
                                                                                          • Craftsmanship is key for older Gen Xers
                                                                                            • Figure 67: Perceptions of quality, by age, February 2016
                                                                                        • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                          • Data sources
                                                                                            • Consumer survey data
                                                                                              • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                                • Generations
                                                                                                • Appendix – Market

                                                                                                    • Figure 68: Population by generation, 2011-21
                                                                                                    • Figure 69: Generations, by race and Hispanic origin, 2016
                                                                                                    • Figure 70: Marital status, by age, 2015