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Isn’t Gen X Ironic?

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The iconic scene from the Gen Xer cult classic Reality Bites is one in which Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke define irony. 

Is the true irony of Gen X that we may be the underappreciated stealth buying force that marketers love to ignore?  

The Pew Foundation refers to Gen X as the “neglected middle child.”*  Like other neglected middle children, we are generally off the radar—not only of our parents, but also of big brands, large financial institutions and even politicians.

Pew shows compelling stats of how we are in the middle of just about everything…politics, religion, technology:

For example,

  • We have fewer years in our defined generation: We Gen Xers have 16 years; Millennials have a 17 year span and Boomers have 18 years in most definitions.
  • Our parents had fewer kids:  We have the lowest birthrate among the three generations.
  • Our parents weren’t around:  We experienced a peak in two-parent working families.

In contrast, Millennials are the glamorous target market…and for good reason.

Beyond being young, social media savvy and authentic decision makers, they win out in sheer numbers. They will become the largest generation this year with 75 million strong and are expected to peak at over 81 million. 

And Boomers? Well everyone knows Boomers have all the money and will experience the largest wealth transfer in history.

However, Millennials aren’t the only buyers out there, and Boomers aren’t the only ones with money (or the only ones stressed about retirement). 

There are 65 million of us Gen Xers who are making purchase decisions every day.  And, while the smallest generation today, Gen X will outnumber Boomers in just over a decade.

Gen X is actually the next generation.  Just ask us:

  • Who is buying both their parents and their children iPads?
  • Who is the Millennial’s manager at work?
  • Who else is so focused on their children? We are, after all, the helicopter mom generation too.
     

Like the middle child, we are just really good at staying off the radar.

For those of us who rode our bikes around the neighborhood unwatched and untethered in the ‘70s (leading me to refer to Gen X at times as the “feral generation”), who endured the conflicted preppy and punk ‘80s, and who came of age in the grungy, yet bland ‘90s, we can’t help but wonder if anyone will ever engage with us.

If nothing else, perhaps Gen X is the most ironic generation.

*http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/05/generation-x-americas-neglected-middle-child/
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